The Dogs of Littlefield by Suzanne Berne
I think I may have set my sights a little high for this one; I'd had my eye on it since it's publication date was announced last year and I was really hoping for some super-snarky reading about this "idyllic," fictitious, upper crust Massachusetts neighborhood where the residents are consumed with first world problems like the mystery of several dogs being poisoned. So, please note that this may be a great book for many of you; it just wasn't what I'd expected.
What I Really Liked
The beautifully descriptive writing:
Houses, stop signs, bicycle fenders, all wore a precise, gleaming look, a clarity brought on by the cool, dry weather, and in the evenings the light turned gold as it was gathered into the harlequin trees, caught within nets of branches and leaves.
Some of the characters, especially the secondary characters:
Someone last winter saw a black bear, though the bear turned out to be Mrs. Beale, head of the Baldwin Park Garden Collective, examining the chicken-wire fencing in her old mink coat.
The author's perspective on the human condition:
[...] she had stumbled onto the most unbalanced people of all: they were afraid of everything. They projected their fears onto everything. Everything they could do nothing about, but had the wit to recognize.
What I Didn't Like
Some of the aforementioned descriptive writing seemed a little forced, as if the author was reaching to overcome a slow plot and a disconnect between the mingling story lines.
There were so many characters; I realize that this is a story about a community, but I would really have enjoyed a little more depth. Some of the characters were delightful, and I would've enjoyed reading more about them; isn't that what a "character-driven" novel is all about?
The "mystery" of the dog murders was so lightly touched upon that I almost forgot about it; it was sewn up very neatly at the ending.
While I considered giving up on this one, it is certainly not without merit; I think that the dog mystery is oversold and, if you take that away, there is some entertaining comedy and lovely writing...just not quite enough to pull it all together, for me.