In a season of manicured lawns, backyard BBQs, and the comforting illusion of middle-class normalcy, Michelle Berry’s uncanny fifth novel reminds us that even the most seemingly ordinary neighbourhoods may be anything but. Beginning in fall and running through spring, the novel tracks the residents of Edgewood Drive in the fictional suburb of Parkville, Ontario, as they contend with busy, problematic, and isolated lives, all while carefully maintaining the appearance of order and routine.
Dealing with breast cancer, anger, and loneliness, Claire struggles to communicate with her distressed husband and children. Jude, Claire’s son, is trying to come to terms with his burgeoning homosexuality and his mother’s mortality. Dayton, a slender and sophisticated single mother from California, has stolen her infant daughter away from her unfaithful husband and lives in fear of being found. Trish, a would-be actress, feels old and rudderless; her business has been threatened with legal action, and her only source of emotional support seems to be her women’s hockey league. Maria and Tom are struggling with an unexciting marriage and a bullied, germaphobic
Add to these personal crises a mysterious and horribly disfigured drifter with a possibly nefarious agenda and a sinister little man peddling child pornography, and the inhabitants of Edgewood Drive are overcome by fear – of the unknown and the unknowable. Their lives are suspended, as they watch and wait for things to unfold. They wait to die, to be kidnapped, to be punished; but also to be loved, to be understood and accepted, and to experience vitality and purpose.
Berry successfully builds suspense and plays on the reader’s sense of paranoia by cleverly alluding to moments of potential disaster that never materialize. When something major does happen, it’s almost farcical, and we have been rendered relatively immune to it. The point has been made: sometimes the only thing we need to fear really is fear itself.