Book Review | The Weight of Small Things by Julie Lancaster

Book Description

Nine-year-old Frankie Appleton likes to count gates.

One day she hopes to design the perfect gate – a gate to keep the bad things out.

Little does she know that the bad things have already got in.

Now her mother is dead, and the only other person with a house key has disappeared.

Frankie thinks she knows who it is. But first she has to prove it.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

My Review

The Weight of Small Things is a poignant and haunting murder mystery that gives the reader a realistic look into the struggles of mental health disorders and their numerous ramifications and consequences. Told mostly from the perspective of a nine-year-old girl, albeit an unusually mature child, the story is given a unique voice in an unexpected mystery style.

Peggy Moon Appleton is a mother and a sufferer from what appears to tragically be schizophrenia – hard to treat and hugely impactful on a person’s quality of life and those of people around them. Peggy’s life has consisted of one challenge after another, each one becoming harder and harder to overcome until eventually, they engulfed her, leaving her mentally broken with little hope of successful treatment. Struggling to raise a daughter on her own and finding herself in an abusive relationship after abusive relationship, it is easy to understand how motherhood was more challenging for her than to most.

I love the way that mental health disorders are handled in this story. The portrayal of the mother’s psychosis is handled genuinely and with deep respect and sensitivity. Imagining what must go through the mind of someone who has been struggling with schizophrenia most of her life is difficult even to contemplate much less do. Still, Lancaster writes about it in a truly educated and sympathetic manner.

Frankie Appleton is wise beyond her years. Seeing much that other people overlook, she manages to make the best of any situation – and there are many. A large part of the story is told from Frankie’s POV, and I love how genuinely it came across as a nine-year-old telling the story. Never once does the story feel like an adult trying to tell the story through the eyes of a child. Instead, it feels very much like a child telling her story with all the determination and grit that defines Frankie.

Frankie loves gates. She reads about them, studies them, draws them, and photographs them. The theme of gates is so telling in this story. Gateways protect while allowing you to see what’s coming. Peggy and Frankie needed protection throughout the entire novel. Frankie must long for protection from the men in her mom’s life to her mother’s mental health disorder. Not to mention protection from her mother’s murderer, and she is confident that her mother was murdered, being the keen observer that she is. She saw many things that the police overlooked.

Yes, it is a murder mystery, and I love the way the plot is set up – mostly a story about Frankie and Peggy’s lives interspersed with the relevant historical events of the cast of potential murderers. The story provides all the appropriate clues to figure out if Peggy took her own life or if one of the handfuls of people with motive did it. I partially figured out the who but not the why – even though looking back, I realized the clues were right there staring me in the face. This is not, in any way, your typical murder mystery, with the plot being carried by the thrills of the investigation. Instead, it is a harrowing tale that compels the pages to turn faster and faster just by the sheer intrigue of the life unfolding in its pages.

If you like dark, intense murder mysteries that focus more on the story of the lives of the people involved, then this is the tale for you.

12 Replies to “Book Review | The Weight of Small Things by Julie Lancaster”

  1. A great review, Tessa. The pov sounds expertly done and unique, and I’m so glad the schizophrenia was represented in an educated and sympathetic way. As an ex-mental health person, it bothers me to read stories where it isn’t handled well. I’m going to check it out. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is particularly interesting when you read it through a mental health professional point of view, I think. And it’s by a new author which makes me go “wow” even more.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What an excellent and insightful review. I like stories that examine mental health and problems when done well. This sounds intriguing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It definitely does not come across as a murder mystery but yet it is. I always find it interesting when writers find a way to take a genre and surprise you with how they interpret it.


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