Friday, October 28, 2016

The Dogs of Littlefield by Suzanne Berne

Life in Littlefield, Massachusetts is what you would expect in a small suburban town.  Children play soccer, wives cook dinner, and the community is proud of its various schools, parks and gardens.  When the town decides to create an off-leash dog park on a trial basis, the many dog-lovers of the town are thrilled.  Dogs frolic and people wonder why they hadn’t done this sooner.  Then the signs start popping up on park fences: Pick up after your dog.  Aren’t you ashamed that you don’t? And Leash your beast.  Or else. No one is particularly surprised by this turn of events.  Surely it’s just one of the folks at the nearby community garden, afraid that a dog will trash some freshly planted beds.  Until Feldman, a white bullmastiff, is discovered dead in the dog park by Margaret Downing.

In Berne's The Dogs of Littlefield, sociologist Dr. Clarice Watkins, newly arrived in town to study the elements of a “good life” and its effect on the suburban citizens of Littlefield, takes in the recent rash of dog poisonings.  What author Berne gives us is a funny, honest portrayal of life and the many people in it.  From the ups and downs of marriage, to affairs, dealing with ones children and work, Berne shows us the honest minds of people living their lives.  Lives that are sometimes small, ordinary and filled with minutiae or fear.  What appears on the surface to be a murder mystery involving the dogs of a small town, really becomes a story about people living their ordinary lives.