Publisher: Owl Publishing Company
Length: 285 Pages
About: Coming of age crime story
Style: 1st person
Where: US (Wasington suburb)
A murdered boy, a runaway husband, a family spinning out of control-- Suzanne Berne's A Crime in the Neighbourhood is no ordinary coming-of-age novel. The narrator of this dark tale of 1970s
suburbia is 10-year-old Marsha, who lives with her mother and older twin siblings in a suburb of Washington, D.C. In the spring of 1972, a young boy is molested, murdered and then dumped behind a
shopping mall. That the child was not particularly likeable is just one of Berne's deviations from the expected, as clear-eyed Marsha recalls the boy's many character flaws, even as she relates the
details of an undeniably horrifying crime. Though murder is the most visible crime in Marsha's neighbourhood, it is by no means the only one; when Marsha's father and aunt run off together, their
enormous betrayal sends Marsha's mother into a tailspin and Marsha into a strange dalliance with Mr. Green, the neighbour next door.
Of course, for many people who grew up in the `70s, childhood was spent between parents, rather than with them. If parents didn't actually divorce, they certainly thought about it, often out loud,
and sometimes requested their children's advice. I've heard horror stories about Christmases spent in airports, scenes at high school graduations, photo albums with one parent or the other scissored
out. I've heard so many of these stories that they're no longer remarkable - in fact, they have stopped being stories at all and have turned into cliches, and the more predictable the worse they are:
the father remarries a witch who dislikes his children and turns him against them; the mother remarries a brute who likes her daughters too much. But any cliche has a fact for a heart, and the fact
is that marriages, like political alliances, broke up all over this country in the 1970s, which in the latter case at least had never happened before.
True, this debut by a Massachusetts essayist and storywriter is a coming-of-age tale, but the greater ethical issues its author explores raise it well above typical first-novel fare.
Kirkus Review 15th March 1997 for full review click here
Not so good:
If I have a quarrel with this wonderful book, however, it is that the framing devices the adult Marsha employs occasionally seem mannered; she insists a shade too often on sentences using ''I
imagine'' or ''I remember.'' There is never any doubt, after all, that Marsha is the most reliable of narrators. She is completely convincing about the evasions and moral shabbiness of others; she is
also completely convincing about her own.
Jacqueline Carey, the New York Times, 20th July 1997 - for full review click here
About the author
Born in 1961 in Washington DC. She attended Georgetown Day School. She was educated at Wesleyan University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and received a National Endowment for the Arts
fellowship. She presently lives with her family near Boston and has taught at both Harvard University and Wellesley College. She is associate English professor at Boston College. She currently lives
in Boston with her husband and two girls.