Little Disasters by Sarah Vaughan
Simon & Schuster, 2020. ISBN: 9781471194900.
(Age: Adult - Senior secondary) Published in 2020, Sarah Vaughan's novel matches the unsettling situation of this year, in which the world became almost universally tense, with an abiding concern about the disasters of the outbreak of the coronavirus, where we have begun to ask questions about our competency to face the reality of a new and changing world. Placing the narrative in the apparently comfortable social group of young families, with parents who want to be 'the best' in this role, and to do everything they can do to ensure that their children thrive, Sarah Vaughan raises questions that are so much a part of coping for many people in today's world.
Plunging us immediately into a home, a crying baby and a parent who is tense with anxiety, questioning her capacity to be a good and loving mother, we are alert to the possibility of her losing control. Sarah Vaughan challenges us to make sense of the different situations, as well as the central issue of a baby's well-being, by moving us in and out of different times, and also focusing on different characters and places. Through this device, the writer enables us to seek to understand just why the situation that dominates the narrative has occurred. As we are drawn into this particularly difficult and tense time, we are challenged to see how the expectations of parenthood in the modern world pose such a challenge to families. We are led to question how, with their drive to be involved in the education, social life and well-being of children, they can cope. With their own well-being, their questioning of their competency, and sometimes bearing the added responsibility of ensuring the well-being of the older generation, that is the grandparents, the parents must find the strength to make a happy family while coping with every aspect of the fast-paced modern world.
This is a vibrant, thought-provoking, and somewhat unsettling novel, set very much in the reality of the modern world. It is not appropriate for younger readers but it is a challenging, and sometimes disturbing, read for older adolescents and adults.