Every other reviewer was disappointed by the ending of "The Little Friend." Could this be because so many people are reared on a diet of "and they lived happily ever after?" The novel isn't about Robin, or Danny, or solving a mystery. The novel is about those uncomfortable months between being a child and something more. It's about a time in Harriet's life. The book ends when that time ends. It's that simple.
We all want closure and had this been a typical mystery it would be disappointing that everything wasn't spelled out in the end. A skillfull writer, Ms. Tartt, refrains from lecturing us and, instead, shows us the abrupt conclusion of Harriet's childhood.
It's not a pretty book in that it follows formulaic rules; therein lies its power for me and other friends. When I closed the cover on my first reading I was quiet for a long time, remembering my own moment of awareness, understanding that I was more than just a child and now empowered with enough stubborness and passion to influence the lives of grownups. The time is bittersweet and painful. Things will never be as they were.
As a writer I know characters talk to their writers and maybe Harriet stopped talking so Tartt stopped writing. Just take it as it comes. The shock we feel at the end of the book is the same shock Harriet feels with her own realizations. Spelling it out would never have allowed us to be there.
As for ladders that conveniently break and all the other "saved by the bell" moments in any book, it is what it is. This is not an action novel it's a character-driven one and to appreciate it I think the reader has to reach back to their own years eleven and twelve.
Variety is the spice of life. There are books I abhore that others love and the opposite is true. Maybe you should read it again, knowing about the ending and savor the words, the pictures, and taste the ice cream eaten on a scorching Mississippi day.