by Scott Blackwood
Narrator: Rengin Altay
Length: 4 hrs and 24 mins
Genres: Crime Fiction, Paranormal
Purchase*: Amazon | Audible *affiliate
A riveting novel about the aftermath of a brutal murder of three teenage girls, written in incantatory prose "that's as fine as any being written by an American author today." (Ben Fountain) One late autumn evening in a Texas town, two strangers walk into an ice cream shop shortly before closing time. They bind up the three teenage girls who are working the counter, set fire to the shop, and disappear. SEE HOW SMALL tells the stories of the survivors--family, witnesses, and suspects--who must endure in the wake of atrocity. Justice remains elusive in their world, human connection tenuous. Hovering above the aftermath of their deaths are the three girls. They watch over the town and make occasional visitations, trying to connect with and prod to life those they left behind. "See how small a thing it is that keeps us apart," they say. A master of compression and lyrical precision, Scott Blackwood has surpassed himself with this haunting, beautiful, and enormously powerful new novel.
See How Small by Scott Blackwood is a literary fiction sharing the aftermath of the brutal murder of three teenage girls. It shares the story of the survivors, the suspects and weaves in a paranormal effect involving the three dead girls who hover over the town and make occasional visits. While this tale with its meandering, erratic timeline will not be for everyone, you cannot help but appreciate Blackwood’s beautiful prose, and haunting look into this small Texas town.
Five things to consider before curling up and listen to See How Small
- Broken into small chapters, the author captures the grief of losing a child, the guilt, and the endless questions of what if. The timeline is erratic sharing with the reader the actual event, then giving us flashbacks as it shares the aftermath. It does not follow a specific timeline, and this may be off-putting for some readers. I felt it more closely resembled an investigation where suspects, victims’ families and such are interviewed. It takes place in a small-town with strong community ties. The way in which each perspective knows the other is interesting and resonates with small-town communities.
- Delivered in various points of view the tale shared the perspectives of Kate Ulrich, mother of two of the murdered children, Elizabeth and Zadie. We also get those of reporter, Rose Heller and Jack Dewey, the firefighter who discovered the bodies. Blackwood also provides the voice of seventeen-year-old Michael Greer, who stood lookout the night of the fire. He beautiful fleshes them out sharing their actions and emotions.
- A subtle paranormal element featuring the girls, who make an appearance was intriguing but did not overpower the novel. I would not classify this in the paranormal genre. Those who have read My Lovely Bones will draw a comparison to this element.
- The journey for the reader is not fully fleshed out, leaving us to make assumptions, come to conclusions and question the characters. It is almost as if we are the detectives of the case and listening to pre-recorded interviews. At least this was the feeling I reached while listening to the audio. The audio is not quite five hours in length. However, it is not one you will listen to in a single sitting. In fact, it took me almost a week to listen.
- See How Small is beautifully written, raises questions and is perfect for a reading club. For me, the strongest aspect was the beginning and I was completely captivated. As I continued listening, the multiple perspectives and jumping time-line with short chapters left me slightly detached even as I was in awe of Blackwood’s writing. Quotes abound within See How Small. Having said that, it was after I unplugged and reflected that I felt more enjoyment and appreciated what Blackwood was trying to accomplish here. It actually made me go back and change this from three cups of coffee to three and a half.
The narrator, Rengin Altay did a wonderful job reading See How Small, and her subtle tones only enhanced Blackwood’s prose.