Book Review: Little Voices by Vanessa Lillie

Originally posted January 5, 2021.

I’m a therapist trained in post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and perinatal mood disorders. I treat survivors of traumatic birth, so the women-centered content of Little Voices is very powerful for me. This story deeply describes the unique female psychological experience of traumatic childbirth, perinatal mental illness and recovery. The opening scene is Devony’s traumatic birth experience. Many women come into my office sharing a story much like hers.

I love mystery thrillers. It is one of my greatest joys when a book absorbs me so much I forget the world around me. Little Voices does just that. Read it right through, stayed up all night to read it!

Although Little Voices, by Vanessa Lillie, is a mystery thriller about the murder of a young woman in a quaint New England town, Little Voices is also about the onset of, and recovery from, postpartum psychosis (PPP). The main character, Devony, is a close friend of the victim, and an investigative lawyer. She’s determined to find her friend’s murderer.

I’d like to share some background about postpartum psychosis. It is a rare and extremely serious mental illness that occurs in .1% – .2% of births.

Postpartum psychosis is a medical emergency. A woman experiencing PPP must be treated immediately. If you think that you are with someone who is experiencing PPP, move quietly and gently. Don’t agitate her by challenging her delusions. Instead, listen to her and gently join with her in her delusion, and immediately call 911.

Women who experience postpartum psychosis experience an actual break from reality. They have delusions and hallucinations. The hallucinations and delusions can take different forms. Often the delusion is an insistent voice: harshly critical of the mother in all way, as a mother, as a wife, as a person. Sometimes there are also auditory and visual hallucinations; such as believing she sees a child hiding in a corner or believing she hears insistent crying. Sometimes the delusions take the form of violent commands of self harm or even, sadly, infanticide. The violent forms are rare. However, any delusion must be taken seriously.