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Little Fish

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WINNER, Lambda Literary Award; Firecracker Award for Fiction; $60,000 Amazon Canada First Novel Award

In this extraordinary debut novel by the author of the Lambda Literary Award-winning story collection A Safe Girl to Love , Wendy Reimer is a thirty-year-old trans woman who comes across evidence that her late grandfather—a devout Mennonite farmer—might have been transgender himself. At first she dismisses this revelation, having other problems at hand, but as she and her friends struggle to cope with the challenges of their increasingly volatile lives—from alcoholism, to sex work, to suicide—Wendy is drawn to the lost pieces of her grandfather’s life, becoming determined to unravel the mystery of his truth. Alternately warm-hearted and dark-spirited, desperate and mirthful, Little Fish explores the winter of discontent in the life of one transgender woman as her past and future become irrevocably entwined.

295 pages, Paperback

First published April 1, 2018

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About the author

Casey Plett

11 books437 followers
Casey Plett is the author of A Dream of a Woman, Little Fish, A Safe Girl to Love, the co-editor of Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy From Transgender Writers, and the Publisher at LittlePuss Press. She has written for The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, The Guardian, The Globe and Mail, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, the Winnipeg Free Press, and other publications. A winner of the Amazon First Novel Award, the Firecracker Award for Fiction, and a two-time winner of the Lambda Literary Award, her work has also been nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. She splits her time between New York City and Windsor, Ontario.

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5 stars
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774 (23%)
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83 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 530 reviews
Profile Image for CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian.
1,156 reviews1,463 followers
November 4, 2021
What are you doing with your life if you haven't read this book?? A hard-hitting, beautiful, and thought-provoking novel. Amazing, complex, authentic characterization; Plett isn't afraid to make her characters messy. I was especially astounded at how she dealt with religion in the lives of some characters. She is also really talented at dialogue. I always marvel at how her characters sound like such real people.

It's about a 30-year-old trans woman named Wendy living in Winnipeg, her group of trans women friends, and her Mennonite family. The crux of the plot is Wendy discovering her grandfather might have also been trans but it's just as much about other issues like alcoholism, sex work, friendship, suicide, and being poor. Highly recommended! Full review here on my blog.
Profile Image for Imogen.
Author 6 books1,378 followers
December 12, 2018
The main way this book is similar to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is that for the first half you're like "yeah this is pretty good but it's not blowing my mind" and then around the halfway point it takes off and becomes incredible. I don't remember if Order of the Phoenix did this too but Little Fish needed that first (admittedly good, just not as good as the second) half to serve as the foundation on which to build. Now that I am thinking about it, I guess JK Rowling had four previous books on which to build. Maybe the primary way that Little Fish is different from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is that Plett only needs half a book to get there - not four and a half books.

Killer stuff and I loved it and this is the kind of book that makes you wish writing took less time so we could have more books from Casey Plett sooner.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,114 followers
February 26, 2019
Wendy is a trans woman living in Winnipeg, in a circle of friends composed of other trans women. Even the author admitted this would be an incredible rarity but wanted a world where it would be possible, and that is the world of this novel.

The novel starts with the death of Wendy's grandmother, which comes with a lot of judgment memories from her Mennonite relatives, and surprising rumors about her Opa (grandfather) that surface not long after.

I liked her relationship to her father, which felt unique. I loved the natural dialogue of the novel, which makes up a good portion of the narrative. It was interesting to see how easily characters moved back into sex work, which felt very Canadian in its matter-of-factness.

I feel like 50 pages could have been cut if I didn't have to read about every damn time Wendy took a sip of alcohol. I get that she has an alcohol problem but I as a reader grew weary. I'm sure Wendy is even more weary, but that was the one element keeping it from five stars for me.
Profile Image for Never.
324 reviews54 followers
May 9, 2018
Little Fish is hands down the book most intimately reflective of my transfeminine experience of any book I have ever read. This book knows me & knows my complicated interpersonal feelings & hopes & joys & disappointments. This is the book of the decade as far as I'm concerned. I have learned deep things about myself from this book. I have ugly cried once and normal cried twice from this book. I am not like the main character of Little Fish. But this character knows me. I am in her world. We have probably hooked up. We have maybe traded escort stories. We could have run into each other at the free clinic and I could have bummed a cigarette from her just to have someone to talk to. This book got under my skin like books NEVER do to me. Reading it has been a heavy, personal, deeply emotional experience. I can't say I am enjoying reading it. This isn't enjoyment. This book knows me. It creeps in and takes me to hard places I forgot I had in me. I'm not a Mennonite. I've never been to Winnepeg, & I have no idea what it would be like to be trans there. This book has difficult experiences that I couldn't imagine having. I mean my difficult experiences are different ones. Most of them. But I know what it's like growing up in a religious community that rejects you. Mine was that of conservative Indiana megachurches. Idk. It's not worth playing compare and contrast bc that's meaningless. There is so much here for me though. The emotional core of the experiences. I am losing words for what this book did to me and why and what it is about it that is so special. But it's very, very deeply real. I want to read this book again but I feel like I'm going to have to wait for when I need it. I'll know that time when it comes. Already today I was having a conversation w a close friend and I took photos of five pages of this book to show her something that felt related to what we were talking about. This is the book I'm going to be paraphrasing and pulling off the shelf to show people during late night spill-your-guts, real-as-fuck conversations. I don't want to over hype it. But this is a very important book for me. I know I'm projecting a lot of my own shit onto it. Idk. I guess that's what art is for though. I'm going through some internal realization shit and this book brought me there. So yr gonna have to deal with me being really fucking extra about it because that's how I am.

Also let it be known, I'm shipping Wendy & Reina
Profile Image for Morgan M. Page.
Author 8 books735 followers
January 11, 2018
I had the chance to read this book prior to publication, and I was stunned at the work Casey Plett has produced. It is a truly moving and wonderful novel about family, in many sense of the word. If you don't read it, you'll regret it.
Profile Image for Z. F..
298 reviews93 followers
February 21, 2020
minnow (n.): any of various small fish that are less than a designated size and are not game fish

Menno (proper n.): first name of Menno Simons, founder of the Mennonite religious order; also slang used to refer to Mennonites themselves: "Oh, you grew up Menno too?"

fish (adj.): [trans slang] 1. a derogatory term used by some to refer to non-trans women. Often considered highly offensive. 2. a compliment among some, too: "You look so fish."

Little Fish (proper n.): a 2018 novel by Canadian author Casey Plett; concerns a young trans woman living in Winnipeg who begins to suspect that her late grandfather(?), a devout Mennonite, may in fact have been a trans woman too


Casey Plett is one of those writers who does it all with such seeming effortlessness that it's easy to underestimate her skill. When I started Little Fish I was almost put off by its unshowy sentences and emphasis on dialogue over description; stupidly, I took understatement for oversimplicity. The narrative is understated, too: that enticing hook about Wendy’s possibly-trans grandparent is more of a subplot than the main storyline, an anchoring point for what is really a slice-of-life look at a couple of winter months in the shoes of a very specific, very real, very complicated person. And once I'd adjusted my expectations, I realized it's a much better book for all that.

Anyone who’s spent time in young, queer spaces in the 2010s—be they IRL ones or online—will recognize the milieu and characters Plett evokes with precision. Anyone whose city of residence is the only urban outpost in an otherwise desolate state or province will recognize the gnawing semi-isolation, the sense of hanging on at the edge of the world, which permeates every scene of this book. And anyone who’s endured a tough winter, a barely-tolerable transition period, a habit or dependency they don’t remember developing, will recognize Wendy’s cyclical progress and one-hour-at-a-time survival, her days of despair made up for with moments of hope.

The book can be repetitive, yes, not a drink or a smoke or a sex act uncatalogued, but in Plett’s skillfully unobtrusive hands it's never dull. The steady accumulation of everyday details—intercut now and then, as real lives are, by scenes of real drama and peril—allows us a special intimacy with Wendy which would have been sacrificed in a more impatient novel. In the month or so since finishing the book I've been surprised to find scenes and snippets popping into my head unannounced (and at times only half-recognized), as if they might be memories from my own life.

I think that speaks not only to the accuracy of Plett's depictions, but also their immediacy, the sense that Wendy's world is not a "setting" at all but the one we—or some of us, at least—inhabit everyday. I’ve always admired writers who can effectively capture day-to-day life in the 21st century, with all its technological complications and ever-shifting social mores, without making modernity itself the message—and Plett does this as skillfully as anyone I've ever read. Cellphones and social media are ubiquitous in this book, but they’re not the point of it; as in real life, they're just a few more tools human beings can use to communicate (or not) with one another. And that's fitting, because this is a novel all about the ways in which people do and don't communicate: who they are, what they feel, what they need.

I didn't realize just how much Little Fish was communicating to me, personally, until I'd put the book down and sat with it for awhile. I liked it a lot while reading it, but I like it even more in hindsight, and many moments still sting in my memory the way that only the best fiction does. This is a book which relishes complexity, which reckons with real pain and real joy on more or less equal terms, and acknowledges that most of life happens somewhere between the two. It's an undeniably "trans" book, intimate and specific and detailed and sincere, and it's a book about being a human more generally.

What else is there to say? I'm so glad I read it. Here's a quote to close you out:

"I can't tell you any of this. I know I can't. But I don't think my life is bad. It's funny—does all this stuff seem dark to you? Even though you're no stranger to hardship. I don't feel like my life is bad. I have friends I can trust; I have a good house; if I feel weird about a trick, I don't have to take it. Yet. I feel hopeless and powerless, but I'm genuinely grateful. That's a true thing. I don't know if you'd understand that. Maybe you would. What can I tell you about my life?"
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 56 books8,615 followers
May 4, 2021
Trans woman Wendy deals, or doesn't, with a fair set of issues including alcoholism, bigotry and hostility, medical issues, sex work, grief, family rejection, a friend's suicide, and losing her job. There's also friendship and dogged refusal to give in, and parental love and the chance of new relationships, so it's not without hope, but this is a picture of a life that should not have to be so hard.

It's a character piece, with no driving plot (the blurb's suggestion she goes on a quest to discover the truth about her grandfather is a figment of Marketing's imagination; Wendy herself forgets about this or doesn't bother for most of the book). As such it stands or falls on the character. The problem for me was that Wendy is an alcoholic, and any truths and hard thoughts quickly dissolve in booze. She is also very solipsistic in the way of addiction, so that the other characters appear and disappear but never come across very strongly through her haze, and since it's told entirely from Wendy's narrative point of view, this does leave us very much in her head. Obviously this is intentional on the author's part and well done, but the effect for me was that I couldn't really engage deeply with the character and there was nowhere else to go. YMMV on that.
Profile Image for Gina.
679 reviews9 followers
April 11, 2019
2 stars

Little Fish may be one of the most dismal, depressing, what the hell is going on books that I have ever read. I wanted (desperately so) to like this book about trans women, written by a trans woman, Casey Plett. 

Plett writes quite nice prose -- when she is writing prose, rather than pages and pages of mundane conversation.

This is very much a slice of life book, and it could been more interesting had an editor insisted that Plett cut some pages of dialogue, passages of Wendy drinking, and paragraphs of Wendy observing the weather or the road conditions.

Plett devotes so many pages to dialogue, which became tedious to slog through. I would have enjoyed less dialogue and more plot and character development. 

We are dropped into the lives of these four women -- without the luxury of a priori knowledge -- but I never connected to them. The characters are self-destructive, and I understand that this is a story about the difficulty of being a trans woman, but the story dragged (too much dialogue!). Oh...and that back cover hook about Wendy's Oja? It is such a small part of the book, and it did not feel resolved. 
Profile Image for Krista.
1,399 reviews592 followers
May 31, 2018
You always had to be on your guard. It didn't matter how often you passed, it could always be taken away. Always. She'd never be little, she'd never be a fish. It could always be taken away.

I know a family who recently went on a trip to China, and as they were walking around Tiananmen Square, local families kept stopping them and motioning for their ten-year-old daughter to pose for pictures with their own children. My friends were amused by this at first, but as it happened over and over, and as their daughter tired of being petted and arranged just so by strangers, they grew impatient and started waving off requests. A locally-based American who had been watching said to them that it was the blue eyes more than anything – most of these people would have never seen blue eyes in real life before and they found the girl's looks to be shockingly strange; that “uncanny valley” effect that can surprise any of us when a person's looks don't fit into our known range of “normal”. Obviously, any Beijing residents who had spent time with blue-eyed people wouldn't have found this girl's looks shocking – familiarity is how we expand our known range of “normal” after all – and all of this is to say: Growing up, I don't remember seeing any trans people in real life, and what there were in pop culture (Klinger in M*A*S*H* [and, yes, I understand his character was pretending to be a transvestite, but he claimed to believe himself a woman in order to get discharged, so] or Divine in Hairspray [and, yes, I understand her to have been an intentionally over-the-top drag queen]) played up the uncanny valley effect – no one was trying to pass; these were men in dresses – and that did little to increase my own range. Today we see trans people more and more – even if they are usually the glamorous types like Lorraine Cox or Caitlin Jenner – and this familiarity absolutely expands the range of what “normal” looks like; which can't help but foster acceptance. But that's all just surface – what Casey Plett gives us in Little Fish is the interior life of a trans woman and this feels like the necessary next step in understanding; and this is why I read – in order to discover how it is that other people live and think and feel. I will admit that at first I wasn't terribly impressed with Plett's actual writing (it's a bit disjointed and doesn't flow quite right), but that's just the sentences (and just my own tastes) – in the end, Plett paints a real and empathetic picture of a transgendered woman's experience, and its value as a whole transcends the inelegance of its parts.

As the book opens, we meet Wendy Reimer – a 30-year-old trans woman, eight years post-transition, living in Winnipeg – and as the blurb reveals, she learns at her Oma's funeral that there may have been closeted trans (or at least gay) relatives somewhere in her deeply religious Mennonite family tree. The blurb makes it sound like this is the big story arc but it's really not – while there are some nice stretches examining what it has meant to come out of the closet as a member of a religious community over time, this story is more about Wendy's own life than a trek through the past. And her own life is pretty hard, mostly due to the intolerance of others: a low-paying and insecure retail job, constantly at risk of verbal abuse and sexual assault from strangers, a tough dating scene and questionable housing; it all leads to Wendy being a quick-tempered and foul-mouthed blackout drunk (you'll like her anyways). With no mother and a loving but flaky father, Wendy has cobbled together a family of fellow trans women – knowing how lucky she is to live in a time and place where she can find such a community – and the love and support these women give each other is the spiritual heart of the book. The trans women are in various stages of pre- and post-op, and they run the gamut from straight to gay to pansexual; it all paints a big and varied picture of the trans experience, with the women mostly heartbroken over those girls who don't yet know they're girls, or who are too afraid to do something about what they know and want. As for the actual surgery, Wendy says:

If other girls asked (as more and more would as more girls came out and the Klinic pipeline got long) she would say the one true thing she could: No she wasn't any happier, no she didn't feel any more like a real girl. But she was calmer now, like a small buzzing part of her brain had been turned off, and was now forever at rest.

It's hard to say that any of these characters are actually happy – there's the alcohol abuse, constant misgendering (Lady, you're a dooood), sex work, and risk of suicide – but at least they're bravely living their truth, right? I found it interesting when Plett has an elderly Mennonite put in her two cents, pointing out that it's actually harder to deny yourself what you want for the glory of God:

You may have thought you needed to be a woman or die. Have you any idea what you can manage? You think you're weak. And because you think you're weak, you can't actually do anything. So you choose the easy, selfish path.

Nothing about Little Fish makes it look like Wendy took the easy path (and as for “selfish”, that's just a harsh word for taking care of oneself), but Plett is generous to the religious viewpoint and it adds another dimension to Wendy's experience. I liked the Winnipeg setting, I liked the constant sense of danger (it seemed that I more concerned for Wendy's welfare than she was herself), and I liked the shoutouts to Miriam Toews and Heather O'Neill. On the other hand, even if it adds to the truth of the experience, I don't need this much explicit sex in a novel, and as I said earlier, this writing doesn't feel terribly literary at the sentence level. But overall, Little Fish feels important – the needed next step in recognising transgendered people as simply people; I consider the four stars a rounding up in light of this.
Profile Image for max theodore.
469 reviews132 followers
June 28, 2023
[cw in this review for discussion of transphobia]

not sure what to say about this. um, first of all: wow.

on the one hand, i want to recommend this to every trans person i know. it's such a fundamentally honest story, nothing hollywoodified, nothing held back. the writing is both bare and evocative--not ornamental, but vivid--and wendy's character in particular feels so detailed and layered. casey plett is a good fucking writer, and this is a beautiful book.

on the other hand, it is a book that reminds you, constantly and deliberately, how little our world cares about trans women. about all trans people, yeah, but specifically about trans women, who are hypervisible and hypervulnerable and the target of so much specific and insidious and murderous hate. when i say murderous, i don’t mean (only) that trans women are literally murdered; i mean that the oppression of transmisogyny is a slow killer. the characters in this book deal with addiction, health problems, loneliness, eviction, shitty experiences with sex work, sexual assault, suicide. to say all of this sprouts from hatred is wrong, maybe, because some of it isn’t hatred; some of it is just a cold indifference. there’s a specific scene in this book that isn’t nearly the worst thing that happens, on an objective level, but hit me hardest emotionally because it drove home that people outside wendy’s circle just… did not want to help her. did not see her as someone to be helped or cared for.

this sounds ridiculously bleak, but i also ought to point out that there is a tight-knit community of trans women at the center of this book, shown over and over supporting and loving one another. i wouldn't call this a hopeless book. i would call it bleakly honest, but i think to pigeonhole plett into writing a book about How Trans People Have It Hard is, largely, to miss the point. yes, this is a book that is at times miserable, but it's not misery porn. a lot of the negative reviews center on how depressing this book is, and yeah, it is. i get it! lots of trans people don't want to read 300 pages of a trans woman having the shittiest parts of life thrown at her over and over! but i also think we should be careful not to discourage trans writers from exploring the darker sides of trans life. there are also people in the reviews talking about how this book struck a chord with them as transfemmes. if you can handle the heavy content warnings, this is a book worth reading.

what else to say? well, it was really hard to put down, despite being relatively plotless. this is a slice-of-life novel about exploring wendy's life during two months of a specifically rough winter. and i think that plotlessness is fine, but it does relate to the two main criticisms i have. first, that i wish there had been slightly more focus on wendy's grandfather. "was wendy's grandpa trans?" is the selling point in the blurb, and her relationship with her family and her religion (said family is entirely mennonite) was the most interesting part of the story to me; i'd have loved to see more exploration. second: i'm of two minds about the ending. it didn’t feel like things resolved so much as just… stopped. and part of me likes that, because real life never all resolves at once; things happen and continue to happen, over and over. but as a reader, i wanted a stronger sense of closure, even if that final image made me feel a deep and powerful ache (said positively).

that said, those criticisms didn't stop me from nearly crying multiple times. that final anna wendy conversation. jesus christ. i need to read more casey plett

you should read this book if you enjoy: character-driven stories! complex and sometimes-shitty pov characters! stories about grief and loneliness! and, of course, transgender people! [trigger warnings: transphobia/transmisogyny, suicide, alcohol abuse, sexual assault]
Profile Image for Karen.
1,038 reviews1 follower
July 18, 2018
I'm not sure what to make of this book. The premise in the blurb - Wendy finding out her grandfather might've been trans - sounds interesting, but the book did very little with that storyline. Most of the book was a lot of getting drunk and having sex. I found it very hard to read Wendy's reactions to things, e.g., she'd claim someone seemed nice and fun and I didn't understand why it felt that way to her. Waking up with a hangover in someone's bed not remembering if you had sex or not sounds terrible to me! Most of her decisions didn't make sense to me. Not that they weren't realistic, they were just so far from the choices I'd make that I often ended up annoyed with her when the other characters in the book were sympathetic. I mean, I would've been sympathetic if she was desperate, but it just seemed like a really bad decision. I think the book has value for the ways it shows Wendy's experience being a trans woman and the relationships she has with other trans women, but there was no trajectory of her life either going downhill or of her growing up, it was just a cycle of drinks and hangovers.
Profile Image for George Ilsley.
Author 12 books237 followers
February 4, 2023
Having read so many addiction memoirs, I can see why the tone of this novel polarized readers. "Wendy" presents as an alcoholic from the very first scene, yet only on page 186 does she question it out loud, to her father, who shoots down the notion. The biggest implication here for the reader is how much can we rely on Wendy’s insights? When she looks at her grandfather through the filters of her own view, how much can we trust her?

This is not a narrative for anyone seeking resolution or redemption. Plett has been very brave to write such a messy character. If I wrote this review immediately upon finishing I would have rated the book lower. But what happened was this — Wendy stuck with me. I kept thinking about her. I really felt that I had spent time with a real person— someone messy and flawed, someone frustrating and self-destructive, someone whose company is a challenge and who is full of potential but you just know they are not going to last that long.

Wendy is a true anti-hero, and Plett is brave enough not to bother prettying it up for sensitive readers who prefer an ideal fictional world.
Profile Image for Erik.
16 reviews2 followers
June 10, 2020
It's not a fair metric to judge a book by, but being trans I tend to look for my experiences in trans narratives and am disappointed when they're not there. Wendy, this book's protagonist, along with her group of friends, are about as far from my life as they could possibly be. These are not people I would want to be around, they radiate that kind of insular trans energy where they immediately divide people as trans and not trans. Her cis roommates are always called cis roommates, they are not deemed interesting enough to talk to or be given names, or to be told when someone they knew has died. They are just those cis people who will never understand.
And that attitude makes sense when you get to the little nugget of mystery pulling itself through this thing: Wendy learns that her grandfather may have been queer. Though she is given barely any information and later told several times that he was into men, she latches onto the idea that he was trans too. Because Wendy never got a chance to come out to him and wants him to have been ok with it. Because she wants to feel closer to him. Because she's still, even 8 years after starting to transition, she's still locked into that idea that trans people and cis people are just too different to ever really understand or care about each other.
While the book brought up many interesting situations and perspectives, it was just not fun to watch this alcoholic, self-destructive, lost woman stumble through life between black outs in the cold. Her acceptance and thankfulness for her life at the book's end, her figuring that struggling to better herself will never make her happier so she should just accept that she'll probably die young and stay doing sex work even though she hates it and never stop drinking is just the rotten cherry on this miserable sundae.
Still, the writing style was nice though the little scrolls that broke up some paragraphs seemed in bizarre places at times, why would you place a hard break in the middle of a scene and then continue it? There were nice meditations of grief, religion, acceptance and gender, and I understand that it may be liberating for others to read this kind of narrative, but it was not at all for me.
Profile Image for Yuna.
502 reviews2 followers
July 30, 2018
Hard to describe how I feel about this one. I'm reminded of why I don't tend to like mainstream/general fiction, because the story tends to feel aimless and meandering. There didn't seem to be much plot, more just following the main character around. But, I ended up liking the characters and getting invested in them. I liked Wendy's roommates and seeing their interactions and the upside to a meandering plot was that the characters had a sense of "realness" to them because I spent so much time wandering around with them as a reader.

The book is rather unflinching in looking at suicide and sexual assault, which may not be for everyone. Also a lot of morbid humor about being trans and how bleak the future can be sometimes. I liked it, and thought it added another layer of depth to the book and the characters, but again, might be too on the nose for some.

Personally, I find reading about alcoholism tedious, but it did inform on Wendy's character. Not sure how I feel about it not really being addressed in the book.
Profile Image for Bailey Olfert.
639 reviews21 followers
December 17, 2018
This book is set in my city, and like Wendy, I have Mennonite roots. Those were interesting aspects to the book. I've heard others rave about the friendships portrayed but I read those relationships as largely unhealthy ones. Mostly I was irritated that the book is sold as Wendy learning a secret about her Menno grandfather - that was a tiny subplot while the bulk of the book had very little story at all. There's lots of drinking, and lots of sex. Wendy's responses often seemed wildly erratic and contradictory.
Profile Image for Megan.
Author 16 books481 followers
July 2, 2018
Oh, I just loved this. Read in two days. A slice-of-life style narrative -- two months (or so?) in the life of Wendy, a twentysomething trans girl with Mennonite heritage and a single father, part of a closeknit community of trans women in Winnipeg. A lot happens that is significant but the pleasure is in the time spent with this character and this author, who emphasizes community and love on every page.
Profile Image for nastya ♡.
885 reviews83 followers
June 7, 2023
a trans woman with a good relationship with her dad? badass! (can’t relate, though)
Profile Image for Skye Kilaen.
Author 14 books318 followers
April 29, 2023
I really believe for cis folks (such as myself) this is *so* worth sitting down with and letting yourself feel it and reflect on it. In addition to just enjoying the heck out of a good novel! There’s a reason this book has won multiple literary awards. Casey Plett is a gifted author and I enjoyed her short story collection A Dream of a Woman as well.
Profile Image for Leah Horlick.
Author 4 books108 followers
July 31, 2019
I almost can't believe this book is real, it's so perfect. It's like looking into a horribly, gorgeously accurate snowglobe of the prairie. Got it from the library, cried all over it, need to go buy my own copy now because I just need to know it's on my shelf and exists in the world.
Profile Image for Fraser Simons.
Author 9 books243 followers
July 17, 2022
Similar to Dreams of a Woman, this is a story that centers a Canadian trans woman and the major obstacles in the story come from the complications of simply existing as a trans woman. There is a loose, overarching plot in which her grandparent has passed away and a family friend calls the home, she answers, turns out her grandparent might have been trans. Between meeting that friend though, most of the book happens.

This can be quite brutal in some ways. The character obviously uses alcohol to obfuscate deeper issues. She’s post-op, still can’t pass all of the time, and is harassed fairly often. Her job is in jeopardy. The mental health of one or more of her trans friends are in crisis almost from the get-go. It does also have plenty of moments of being around people that truly love and support her and want the best for her. So the tone Vacillates, to put it mildly. But it did feel like fiction that wasn’t solely about making you care about a marginalized person’s pain, and I liked that the conflicts came from her life naturally, so it organically puts the reader in situations where they hopefully will understand the additional barriers to feeling safe and financial security, and the prejudices involved.

Overall, I thought it was really strong and always believable and compelling. I do like Dream of a Woman, her short story collection, a bit more because that collection is more eclectic and has a heartfelt through line that is the strongest story I’ve read by this author so far.
Profile Image for Mel (Epic Reading).
917 reviews284 followers
Want to read
July 23, 2019
Picked-up at the cutest little, beautifully curated bookstore in Vancouver called Paper Hound (in gastown). Super stoked to find such a unique Canadian novel!
Profile Image for charlotte,.
3,227 reviews873 followers
August 11, 2022
Rep: trans sapphic mc, Puerto Rican lesbian trans side character, Métis trans side character, trans side character, trans lesbian side character

CWs: misgendering, transphobia, sexual assault, sexual harassment, suicidal ideation, suicide
Profile Image for Melinda Worfolk.
614 reviews18 followers
December 31, 2018
3.5 stars.

The protagonist of this novel embodies a voice not often heard in mainstream fiction: a 30 year old trans woman struggling to make a life for herself in a world full of transphobia that ranges from misgendering, to street harassment, to sexual assault.

The book blurb makes it sound like the plot focuses around a revelation that Wendy's devout Mennonite grandfather may have been trans also, but it's really a fairly minor part of the novel. The book mainly deals with Wendy's difficult life, not only with the way she is treated by transphobic people but also her precarious employment and housing situations and her alcoholism. She does have a good friend group, but they, too, are all struggling in one way or another. Despite that, they are there for each other, and I liked their supportive friendships.

The main difficulty I had with the book was the writing: it's full of short, choppy, disjointed sentences, which isn't a style I connect with. Even so, I appreciated the book because it gave me an opportunity to spend some time with a trans character who is self aware, smart, and complex.
Profile Image for Janae (The Modish Geek).
343 reviews40 followers
August 24, 2021
I wanted to like this. I enjoy slice-of-life stories, more character than plot, but so much of this novel was random description and dialogue that added nothing. And the main tease of Wendy discovering her grandfather was trans? Nothing came of it! The story line was so small as to be inconsequential to the story. And honestly, Wendy's conclusion on the situation was forced and without merit.

The first half of the book is very slow. In the second half, it finally picks up, but you're hit with so many things that are left hanging without satisfying resolutions: alcoholism, prostitution, health scares, thoughts of suicide, loss, sexuality, and sexual abuse. None of these things are discussed in a way that feels like they're being processed or dealt with.. By the end, Wendy has thoughts and outlooks on her life that don't feel "earned". We see nothing that validates these parting thoughts.

I wouldn't recommend, but if you pick it up, I'd suggest skipping the audiobook. The narrator's monotone delivery does nothing for the story.
Profile Image for A.
298 reviews21 followers
February 3, 2019
There is really such a marked difference in how men and women write about sex, with the difference mainly being that women know women are people.

Anyway, this is a stellar book and Wendy is such a good, good, well-written character. I hope she gets with Aileen in the end.
Profile Image for Max.
103 reviews62 followers
February 4, 2019
I'm not sure how to review this book or, really, even how to articulate my feelings on it.

I loved it, I can say that much, and...is it weird to say you feel "seen" after reading a book? Probably, but I did. My background doesn't intersect with the protagonist's all that much - I'm trans, but not a trans woman; I'm a white person from the prairies, but not Manitoba, and my family isn't Mennonite - but it intersects enough that the story pulled me in, and when the second half of the novel exploded with ugly emotions (and actions and thoughts, but it was the emotions that hit me again and again) I had to stop repeatedly to take a breath.

This isn't a light read. It deals a lot with sexual assault and suicide and addiction and the sort of undefined trauma that comes from living your life in a body that marks you as separate. There's a lot of transmisogyny depicted in this, unsurprisingly, and it comes in a lot of different forms. I'm very glad I read it, though, because one of the driving forces of the story is a specific kind of misery, one that tends to be unspeakable in part because there are no good words for it, and it's the kind of misery that I think will be immediately recognizable to anyone who's experienced it. One of the blurbs on the back cover of my copy, from Zoey Leigh Peterson, speaks to this: "There is a dark place most novels don't touch. If you've ever been there, maybe you know how exhilarating it can be to read a book like this."

(Also, it has a hopeful-leaning-happy ending. So don't let that last paragraph scare you off TOO much.)
Profile Image for Mallory Pearson.
Author 1 book57 followers
May 20, 2021
thank you so much to the publisher for providing me with an audio ARC!

this story was touching, painful, and gorgeous. i loved learning about Wendy's life and experiences, and i was so comforted by the close-knit treasure of her all trans woman friend group. we got to see them experience hardship together while always having each other as support, and i think that took this book to another level, bringing joy even in dark moments. but this is still a harrowing book that emphasizes a daily and very real struggle amongst alcoholism, sex work, strained familial ties, sexuality, and religion. at times the story dragged a bit under the constant mentions of drinking, but i think the overarching message made up for those slow moments by the end. i loved this book, and i can't recommend it enough!
Profile Image for Brook.
Author 1 book31 followers
May 28, 2018
Outstanding and devastating. This is a book full of people I've known, slept with, and smiled at across the room. Family is a tenuous thing, and Little Fish finds space for it throughout. I'm not sure what I would've made with this years ago, but now, it's a sad and good ache. I hope Casey keeps writing, and sharing her work with us for years to come. I read this in one go, and it was a wild ride that had me laughing and crying.
Profile Image for Nikki.
494 reviews124 followers
October 1, 2021
I feel like I know these people and I'll miss them so much.

This novel understands what it means to have a community, even if that community is just you and your three best friends. It understands that not only is that more than enough - it's everything. The girl gang at the heart of the book - the four trans girls who love and support each other - is one of the most beautiful portraits of friendship I've ever seen.
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