From the Orange Prize–winning author of A Crime in the Neighborhood, Suzanne Berne’s The Dogs of Littlefield is “sublime” (The Chicago Tribune), a suspenseful and hilarious “suburban comedy of manners par excellence” (Kirkus Reviews) that explores the unease behind the manicured lawns of suburban America.
Littlefield, Massachusetts, named one of the Twenty Best Places to Live in America, is full of psychologists and college professors, proud of its fine schools, its girls’ soccer teams, its leafy streets, and quaint village center.
Yet when sociologist Dr. Clarice Watkins arrived in Littlefield to study the elements of “good quality of life” someone begins poisoning the town’s dogs. Are the poisonings in protest to an off-leash proposal for Baldwin Park—the subject of much town debate—or the sign of a far deeper disorder?
“Nothing sucks a reader in like psychological menace, and Suzanne Berne is a master of the craft…. Her scenes are elegantly composed, and even throwaway characters jump off the page” (The New York Times). A wry exploration of the discontent concealed behind the manicured lawns and picket fences of darkest suburbia, The Dogs of Littlefield explodes with “comic exuberance and restrained beauty” (The Boston Globe).
Berne (A Crime in the Neighborhood), winner of the Orange Prize (now called the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction), has done it again with her latest insightful, character-driven novel about life in modern suburbia. Littlefield, Mass., is an idyllic village with a tight community of middle class residents listed on the Wall Street Journal's list of the 20 best places to live in America. Dr. Clarice Watkins, a sociocultural anthropologist, moves to Littlefield in order to study what "good quality of life" looks like, a stark contrast to her usual studies in poverty-stricken areas. However, Littlefield's picturesque bubble has been shattered by a spate of dogs poisonings, possibly related to the town's heated debates over opening an off-leash area in its park. Clarice quietly observes the machinations of daily life in the quiet town as the residents, including her neighbors, Hedy Fischman and Margaret Downing, go about their lives as normal, gossiping, gardening, and taking their children to soccer games. Things aren't always as they seem, and Littlefield has its share of struggling marriages, sullen teenagers, and scandalizing affairs. Although the dog poisoning mystery drives the narrative, the novel works best when Berne applies her perceptive tongue-in-cheek voice to the foibles of suburban life, hilariously depicting quotidian problems and trivialities. The resolution of who is poisoning Littlefield's dogs is almost an afterthought in this thoughtful satire filled with unforgettable characters.