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Blind Crescent

by Michelle Berry

Suburb-lit is one of those classically American phenomena, like jazz or drive-through churches. From Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt to Updike’s Rabbit to Carver’s cavalcade of losers, the suburbs have been a mainstay of the American literary diet for decades (to say nothing of recent screen fare like American Beauty and Desperate Housewives). Michelle Berry’s new novel is a comparatively rare Canadian entrant into the field (today’s Canada is nothing if not suburbanized, but our writers still tend to prefer geriatric river towns or hipster-infested cities).

Blind Crescent is a bracing, if sometimes frustrating, elaboration on the familiar, scathing genre. A successful lawyer lusts after a seductive neighbourhood teen. A harried single mom receives a string of bizarre postcards from her creepy ex. An old man suffers from a rare disease that causes him to taste everything he sees. Blind Crescent is largely woven from such tabloid-like fragments.

Holding the tapestry together is the story of a serial killer who is randomly gunning down drivers on the highways around town. Shortly after a sixth commuter is killed, a mysterious drifter begins squatting in an abandoned house on the crescent. Could this new neighbour be the murderer himself?

Perhaps, but Berry has a way of taking the seemingly obvious – stereotypical characters, familiar storylines – and subverting it. She’s a minor master of tone, lulling the reader with humour that ranges from subtle irony to broad farce (including a wickedly gross scene involving a spanking and a soiled diaper). She’ll then shift on a dime, uncovering a hidden layer of gentle sweetness or smacking the reader with a seemingly innocent situation’s underlying horror.

The novel sags somewhat in the last third, maybe under the weight of so many relatively flat characters, and maybe because Berry hasn’t quite found a way to bring her competing moods coherently together. But there is enough colour and intelligence here to compensate for the rough patches. For Canadian fans of the suburban gothic, Blind Crescent should provide a satisfying homegrown fix.


Reviewer: Nicholas Dinka

Publisher: Pengiun Books Canada


Price: $22

Page Count: 280 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 0-14-301696-2

Released: May

Issue Date: 2005-5

Categories: Children and YA Non-fiction, Fiction: Novels