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Malena WatrousLittle Bird of Heaven starts with the urgency of a thriller, then turns into something more existential as the years (and pages) go by with no developments in the case. This is a tragedy on a classical scale. Oates more than winks at the Greeks by naming the town Sparta, the murdered woman Zoe (which means "life"). Like the original Spartans, these people are stuck in a world where physicality dominates and runs violent…Oates has been chided for a tendency toward melodrama, and the emotions in Little Bird of Heaven are definitely intense. Krista often sounds florid. But melodrama is a valid tool, one the Greeks used as well to dramatize the height of passion. In real melodrama, there's a stark line between villains and innocents. In this novel, it's not that straightforward. Oates has written a feminist novel with empathy for men, especially men without power, with no voice besides violence.
—The New York Times