After reading the description, I expected The Dogs of Littlefield by Suzanne Berne to be a satire mocking upper-middle-class American suburbia, and analyzing the hidden darkness that dwells behind the lemonade stands and scrubbed, polished houses of Littlefield. Turns out, there wasn’t any (darkness that is), and this took away from the book’s ending.
The novel itself follows a middle-aged housewife, Margaret, and provides the reader with a complete and satisfying character study. Margaret is an understandable woman–her family’s move to suburbia, her marriage’s gradual deterioration, and her inability to connect with her loved but aloof daughter leads her to an affair, the consequences of which are also explored.
The main objective of The Dogs of Littlefield was to explore Littlefield itself: why is there deep-seated discontent in a seemingly happy town named one of the “Ten Best Places to Live In America”? I don’t know, and I guess Suzanne Berne didn’t know either because just as she was about to reach some conclusion and explain this phenomenon, – as well as why the thousands of psychologists littered in Littlefield couldn’t fix the perennial melancholy of the town – everything stopped. Dr. Watkins, the socialist studying Littlefield moves away, elects not to publish her research, and the novel concludes without the reader discovering what Dr. Clarice Watkins discovered about life and Littlefield that so profoundly moved her.
Berne is a stellar author and the book is very well-written with gems like “Hedy was wearing a hairy brown cardigan that looked like coconut matting” and “Hedy said she never missed a chance to hear children sing, claimed it cleared her sinuses”. The novel, while slow at times (how exciting can a novel focused on a lonely housewife and dying dogs be?) was never tedious, and while it isn’t one of my favorites it was a pleasant read.
Maria Tews is a high school student in Northeastern Connecticut. Maria loves reading, writing, and a hot cup of tea.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Simon & Schuster. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.