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Little Fish

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  1,962 ratings  ·  300 reviews
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 transgend
Paperback, 295 pages
Published May 1st 2018 by Arsenal Pulp Press (first published April 1st 2018)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,962 ratings  ·  300 reviews

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Jenny (Reading Envy)
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
Dec 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 previ ...more
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 tr
Khashayar Mohammadi
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, canadian, lgbtq
I picked up this book and decided to read a page or two to get a feel for it. 40 pages later I was still standing there reading, 250 pages later I had still not broken eye contact with this magnificent book, this absolute gem. The prose is sharp and witty without being too clever. The story flows so naturally and the narrative carries on with such simplicity and ease, letting the reader enjoy every single page. It was a book that made me question how I look at those around me, a book that made m ...more
Morgan M. Page
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
May 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Z. F.
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 C
K.J. Charles
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 disco
May 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, can-con
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, a
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: contemporary
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 wa ...more
Jul 17, 2018 rated it liked it
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 te ...more
Skye Kilaen
I'm not fantastic at talking about literary fiction, but I thought this was amazing. There’s a reason this ownvoices novel about a transgender woman has won multiple literary awards. Casey Plett is a gifted author and I’m really looking forward to her next book.

Also, I can only speak for myself as a cis person, but I really believe for cis folks 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 - I promi
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
Bailey Olfert
Dec 17, 2018 rated it did not like it
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 an ...more
Leah Horlick
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Mel (Epic Reading)
Jul 22, 2019 marked it as to-read
Shelves: own-print
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!
George K. Ilsley
Jun 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Having read so many addiction memoirs, I can see why the tone of this novel polarized many 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, can we trust her?
This is not a narrative for anyone seeking resolution or redemption. P
Nov 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
Melinda Worfolk
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 l
Jeanne Thornton
May 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"What kind of world does the core of your brain expect that you, you personally, get to live in? . . . Wendy did still believe she would have love." <3 ...more
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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, 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 explode
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbtqia
Excellent. Wendy, a 30 yo trans woman in Winnipeg, discovers that her late Mennonite grandfather may have been transgender like her. Wendy seeks answers, while just trying to get by with everyday life.

The story is quite sad at times. And there is some repetition: Wendy drinks, Wendy has sexual encounters, Wendy has conversations with family, both chosen and blood. Rinse, repeat. But rather than finding this repetition fatiguing, I found it realistic. Wendy is a fully fleshed character, complex a
Feb 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels, queer, ww
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.
Denise Cameron
Dec 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canadian-lit, lgbt
This novel is both incredible and a little heartbreaking.
Jessica Haider
Jun 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbtq, fiction, netgalley
Wendy is a trans woman living in Winnipeg, Canada. She has her circle of LGBTQ+ friends many of whom are dealing with the messiness with life as trans people. Amongst their group, they experience substance abuse, suicide and sex-work. Wendy discovers evidence that her grandfather may also have been transgender. Wendy pokes into her family's past to see if she can find out the truth about her grandfather, all while dealing with the realities of her own life as a trans woman.

This was a powerful r
Jun 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: unowned
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 d ...more
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canlit, top-10, lgbtqi2s
Prediction: Little Fish will be in my top five 2018 Canadian fiction reads at year-end. I thought this book was just exquisitely written. It is simultaneously honest and sardonic, which turns out is a lovely combination. Or perhaps author Casey Plett just knows how to do it well. I sometimes feel guilty reading books in a day because I know that authors toil over books for what seems like eons... but I couldn't help but rumble my way through this period in Wendy's life in a couple sittings. The ...more
Nom Chompsky
Dec 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: queer, can-lit
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Although the story is complex and has a lot of different characters that are just as complex, I didn’t find the story as compelling as I thought. Read it to understand more of the trans community but not necessarily for the plot that seemed to be dragging on.
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Casey Plett is the author of A Dream of a Woman (forthcoming Sept '21), Little Fish, and A Safe Girl to Love. She co-edited the anthology Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Transgender Writers and wrote a column on transitioning for McSweeney's Internet Tendency. Her reviews and essays have appeared in such venues as The New York Times, Maclean's, The Walrus, and Plenitude.


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“Wendy knew how to deal with looking cis and she knew how to deal with looking trans, but she would never, ever figure out how to be both. How the world could treat her so differently—within days or hours.” 4 likes
“Maybe living through it isn't the only hard part. Maybe being in the world afterward is also the hard part.” 2 likes
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