The Little Snake by A.L. Kennedy [8/10]

Even though I find some of her books distinctly uncomfortable reading, A.L. Kennedy is one of my favorite stylists. What exactly is her style is hard to describe, for it’s not flashy. Her style is more in the pacing and rhythm than in flowery prose, though her descriptions are wonderful. “The Little Snake” is an oddment within her portfolio, a novella-length fable about a fabulistic snake, Lanmo, who visits humans about to die, and his unexpected friendship with little girl Mary. Told in gentle, evocative prose (“The red jewels blinked like clever, tiny eyes. This was because they were clever, tiny eyes.”), Kennedy’s meditation on death and life and everything in between glides through Mary’s life and Lanmo’s journeys. This is infinitely seductive writing in the service of a handful of basic messages, and I found it powerful indeed. Highly recommended, especially if you can read it to a young child after you’ve wept with it yourself.

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