Little Nothing

In an unnamed country at the beginning of the last century, a child called Pavla is born to peasant parents. Her arrival, fervently anticipated and conceived in part by gypsy tonics and archaic prescriptions, stuns her parents and brings outrage and scorn from her community. Pavla has been born a dwarf, beautiful in face, but as the years pass, she grows no farther than the edge of her crib. When her parents turn to the treatments of a local charlatan, his terrifying cure opens the floodgates of persecution for Pavla. Little Nothing unfolds across a lifetime of unimaginable, magical transformation in and out of human form, as an outcast girl becomes a hunted woman whose ultimate survival depends on the most startling transfiguration of them all.  Woven throughout is the journey of Danilo, the young man entranced by Pavla, obsessed only with protecting her. Part allegory about the shifting nature of being, part subversive fairy tale of love in all its uncanny guises, Little Nothing spans the beginning of a new century, the disintegration of ancient superstitions, and the adoption of industry and invention. With a cast of remarkable characters, a wholly original story, and extraordinary, page-turning prose, Marisa Silver delivers a novel of sheer electricity.

Little Nothing Cover


In Little Nothing, the wizardly Marisa Silver conjures a pitch-dark tale with empathy and humor. An emotionally suspenseful allegory, the novel reveals how the world's expectations can torque a woman's identity and leave a ferocious ache behind. The novel twisted me up inside. I loved it.

Lauren Groff

author of Fates and Furies, National Book Award Finalist

As Silver charts realms of quackery and freak shows, lycanthropy and psychoanalysis, indoor plumbing and urban waterworks, she eventually brings together the pieces of this story like glass in a kaleidoscope patterning and coalescing. The effect is mesmerizing.

Thomas Curwen

The Los Angeles Times

…a beautifully told, heart-rending, can't-put-it-down read…Silver masterfully balances a riveting plot with deep meaning - exploring love and its inadequacies, the persistent and unequal power of sexuality, the cost of being an outcast in a fearfully conforming society.

Connie Nelson

Star Tribune

Pavla, born strangely disfigured, is the "little nothing" of the title; Danilo is the young local who loves her. All very conventional-and the only conventional things in this strange, glorious tale of transfiguration and wild nature. Trust me: you'll have to read it to understand, but you'll be transfixed. Silver, once a movie director, uses her trained eye to talk about the remarkable thing that is the female body-and how Western society misunderstands it.

Bethanne Patrick


Little Nothing is a wild, witty, and mesmerizing tale that plays with the dissidence of bodies and the transcendence of longing. Marisa Silver writes beautiful, seductive prose that always manages to be both wise and fleet; her inventive, romantic novel is compassionate and moving in wonderfully surprising ways.

Dana Spiotta

author of Innocents and Others

By turns haunting, fanciful, and poignant, Little Nothing is the latest example of why Marisa Silver is one of our finest, most protean storytellers.

Boris Fishman

author of A Replacement Life

Marisa Silver's beguiling new novel, "Little Nothing," is a powerful exploration of the relationship between our changeable bodies and our just as malleable identities… Silver's intellectual and emotional themes to accumulate with enviable subtlety.

Matt Bell

New York Times Book Review

A dark fairy tale that pulses with life and anger, Little Nothing is a remarkable piece of fiction - fantastically written and beautifully crafted….  The rage that courses through these pages is one that feels incredibly relevant, and elevates this story to something far greater than it could have been. Forget giving young girls Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, but pass them this - it may be dark, it may be gruesome, but it conveys the anger of a woman shaped and molded by the pressures of society into something she has no desire to be, and the consequences of ignoring that rage and desire. A powerful read - 5 stars.

Luke Marlowe

The Bookbag

Marisa Silver's fourth novel, Little Nothing, is a marvelous book…[it] is steeped in strangeness, but it's driven by a basic question that frees the best novels and their heroes when the time comes to explore their worlds: What if there's something else out there?

Mark Athitakis

Barnes and Noble

Part allegory, part fable, part love story, Little Nothing is unflinching, brutal, and yet exquisitely beautiful. This haunting and original novel-about the lengths people will go to escape persecution, the transformative power of compassion, and how one can find moments of grace and connection in a world filled with heartache-is unlike anything I've ever read before.

Christina Baker Kline

author of Orphan Train

With Little Nothing, the peerless Marisa Silver is at the height of her powers. Following one woman's transformation, Little Nothing reimagines the boundaries between mother and child, human and non-human, possible and impossible. Lyrical, raw, and urgent, this exquisite novel will take you to the outermost edges of heart and mind.

Amity Gaige

author of Shroder

…a parable and a full-fledged, richly told story, with clearly drawn characters who beckon us to come along with them on their journeys… Silver shows us her capacity for fleet-footed writing. Little Nothing is a quick, pleasurable read, but one that's full of mysteries to stop and unpack.

Maddie Crum

Huffington Post

Silver turns the oral tradition into fine literature with Little Nothing, a masterful work of fairy tale and folklore.

Maureen Stinger

Shelf Awareness

Marisa Silver's fantastically inventive new novel counters expectations at every turn.

Fran Bigman

The Washington Post

LITTLE NOTHING is a siren call to self-acceptance, yet tells its story with a fantastical bent that will engage the reader. It's a wild ride, one that combines literary skill and wages an emotional battle like no other.

Jana Siciliano

Book Reporter

Little Nothing is a magnificent something, an inventive, unexpected story that seamlessly blends fable and folklore into the lives of characters who remain heart-wrenchingly real. That Silver wrestles with nearly unanswerable questions - What does it mean to occupy a body? What does it mean to be human? How transformative is love? - and still produces an exhilarating page-turner is a testament to her biting, beautiful prose. In addition to being a joy to read, this book challenged and changed me, and I can't imagine what else anyone would want from a work of art.

Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

author of The Nest

Best-selling and award-winning author Silver (Mary CoinThe God of War) has created a haunting tale of magic realism, both fabulist and earthy.

Jennifer B. Stidham

Library Journal

Little Nothing is the key to its own box, which opens and opens, transcending the limits of the very tale one thought one was reading. There is no limit. There is only the vaporous wonder of transformation, and the kernel of a spirit of a thing that can go on, and does. This book is a beautifully realized riddle.

Rachel Kushner

author of The Flamethrowers, National Book Award Finalist


WCBE - Columbus, Ohio

Marisa Silver - Sometimes you have to change: In the interview, Marisa Silver talks about her time in Ohio (think overcast skies), her background working in Hollywood, and how she became a writer.

KCRW Bookworm Interview

In Marisa Silver's Little Nothing (Blue Rider Press), an ugly young dwarf girl transforms first into a beauty, then into a tall woman, then into a wolf. We talk about metamorphosis and how the depths of the psyche intersects with the inner structure of fairy tales. Little Nothing is a novel that risks being a structure of pure imagination - Marisa Silver tells why she took the risk.

The Aboutness: An Interview with Marisa Silver

LA Review of Books

The Monster at Our Backs: "Why do we write the books we do?"

Vanity Fair

Sloane Crosley's Favorite Fall 2016 Books: Magic and misinformation meet in Marisa Silver's Little Nothing

Midwestern Gothic

Interview with Midwestern Gothic about Little Nothing

The National Book Review: Q&A

Marisa Silver on "Little Nothing," her novel about a girl born a dwarf who shifts shape to survive

Electric Lit: Interview

Marisa Silver on Fables, Torture, and Reading the Obituaries: an interview with the author of Little Nothing

Weird Sister: Interview

Identity is a Fickle Thing: An Interview with Marisa Silver

Literary Hub

Five Books Making News This Week: Madness, Monkeys, and Fairytales: Alexander Maksik, Francine Prose, Marisa Silver, and more


Fernanda Eberstadt

Interview with Fernanda Eberstadt about Little Nothing

KPFA - Radio Wolinsky

Marisa Silver - Little Nothing: In the interview, Marisa Silver talks about the relationship between the film-making and novel-writing, the role of themes in her work, and the nature of her artistic choices.

Caroline Leavitt: Interview

Marisa Silver talks to Caroline Leavitt about transformation, wandering around thinking about what to write, scandal, magic, fairytales, and her brilliant new novel, LITTLE NOTHING

Read It Forward's Favorite Reads of September

Little Nothing included in Read It Forward's September Favorite Reads

Oprah: Fall Book Picks

25 Books to Read This Fall
"A provocative original fairy tale about the persecution and salvation of Pavla, a girl scorned by her village for her dwarfism."

Angel's Flight Literary West

Excerpt from Little Nothing and interview with Marisa Silver

The Rumpus

The Rumpus Mini-interview project #59: Marisa Silver

Huffington Post: Fall Book Picks

20 New Books You'll Need For Your Shelf In Fall 2016
"In the register of a folk tale, Marisa Silver's novel recounts the life of Pavla, a much-wanted child born to Czech peasants at the turn of the 20th century. Pavla becomes a beautiful girl, but she never grows, and her parents realize she was born with dwarfism. They love their clever, striking daughter, but they worry about her condition; finally, they bring her to a doctor who says he can help. Instead, he and his hapless assistant, Danilo, traumatize young Pavla and set her spinning out alone into the world, where she's exploited for her "freak show" condition. Danilo, however, finds himself deeply drawn to the young woman, and becomes a friend and supporter. Both young people, irreparably marked by the event that brought them together, Pavla's doctor appointment, are forever changed. Little Nothing weaves together the historical travesties faced by women and those seen as "different" with broader themes of love and loss."