Skip to main content

Our Little World


Our Little World

You will want Karen Winn on your radar. Her debut novel, OUR LITTLE WORLD, is full of emotional arcs and feelings written with the maturity of someone who has been doing this for many years.

Set in the mid-1980s, the book features two young sisters from New Jersey who are about to undergo a summer of love, loss and complicated emotional issues well beyond children of their age. Winn deftly weaves and infuses the plot with elements of mystery, intrigue and serious emotional layers that keep the story moving forward and developing into a finely honed character study.

"I believe that referring to [the book] as a coming-of-age tale diminishes the story and takes away from the superb job that Karen Winn has done here. This engaging novel will have something for everyone to enjoy."

We know right away that the book’s narrator is Bee Kocsis, and she makes it perfectly clear that her younger sister, Audrina, is dead. She takes us back in her memory to 1985 and the sweltering summer that she and Audrina spent at Deer Chase Lake, New Jersey. Bee also indicates that Audrina is not the only dead girl she knows. She once knew a little girl, Sally Baker, who one day disappeared in broad daylight right off the shores of Deer Chase Lake, never to be seen alive again.

Sally was only three years old, but she and her older brother, Max, spent a lot of time with Bee and Audrina that summer --- making her disappearance and eventual death that much more difficult to deal with. Bee felt particularly odd the day that Sally went missing down at the lake; Audrina had been growing distant from her and spending more time with the Bakers. The last straw was when Bee found the charm on the ground by the lake that day. It was the very same charm that came from the bracelet that Bee wanted --- the bracelet that Audrina must have given to Sally without telling her. This was why, when the search party was scouring the area looking for Sally, Bee initially pocketed the charm and told no one about it.

Rumors spread about what might have happened to Sally. The girls knew she didn’t like the water, and her body wasn't found there. Could she have been abducted? Then there was the morbid talk of wild black bears roaming the area that easily could’ve found a stray three-year-old as an apt snack to fill their hungry tummies.

As Bee looks back on this dark summer, she recalls that Sally would always belong in childhood and be forever known as “the Lake Girl,” solidifying her fable-like status in the region. The situation got especially tense, Bee remembers, the afternoon that the missing charm was found in her room and she was forced to explain its possession not only to the rest of the family but also to the Bakers and the local police who were still searching for Sally. Thankfully, nothing bad came of it, but Bee and Audrina were never quite the same after that.

It is this fact that makes the book's second half that much harder for Bee when Audrina nearly dies from what ends up being the onset of juvenile diabetes. Since it is already explained in the first paragraph of the novel that Audrina is dead, I will just indicate here that her death will involve diabetes in a tragic way. Going back to the Sally Baker mystery, when two local boys find what appears to be a human bone stuck in a nearby tree not far from where Sally was last seen, that case will pick up and really get interesting.

There is so much to think about while reading OUR LITTLE WORLD that you will forget about the death that continually pervades the book as an unwelcome dose of reality. I believe that referring to it as a coming-of-age tale diminishes the story and takes away from the superb job that Karen Winn has done here. This engaging novel will have something for everyone to enjoy.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on May 6, 2022

Our Little World
by Karen Winn

  • Publication Date: May 3, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton
  • ISBN-10: 0593184491
  • ISBN-13: 9780593184493