‘This is not a simulation’

Inner and outer beasts of girlhood

The book’s first sentence sets us firmly in time and place: “Rivière-à-Pierre, the Gaspé Peninsula, winter 1933.” But very soon, the reader understands that this story will take place, like a fairy tale, largely in a world that transcends time and place. It is told in the voice of an eleven-year old girl (clearly the namesake of the title, though she remains unnamed in the novel). “You’re not a monster…just a little beast,” her mother tells her, because she has sprouted a beard. Our adolescent narrator is acutely self-aware: “There is something unfair about not being able to choose your face: It’s like heading down a road that you know is going nowhere.” This latter statement may very well encapsulate the experience of reading this short, haunting novel.

No one gets to choose their own face; in other words, we are all on this futile journey “going nowhere.” But let’s be fair: Little Beast’s journey is far from...