cover image The Dogs of Littlefield

The Dogs of Littlefield

Suzanne Berne. Simon & Schuster, $25 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4767-9424-2

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 dog 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 scandalous 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. Agent: Colleen Mohyde, Doe Coover Agency. (Jan.)