June is at the heart of this collection of stories; she is the link, the thread of light through a series of dark scenes.
She is our guide to the ‘burbs: “The picture perfect suburban dream with the groomed lawns, nine-to-five jobs, 2.5 children kind of places. Domino effect. One person decides this ridiculous life is unbearable and utterly boring and then they all fall down.”
This is the stuff of everyday, quiet and loud, concealed and forthright.
The babysitter is at one end of the spectrum: “I’d never met anyone so boring. I thought I might be the one who died from watching her.” Sixteen years old, complete with soap operas and Harlequins. (None of which likely take place in the suburbs.)
And the perennial flowers are at the other: “They came back like noisy relatives each year.” That’s right: the flowers are on the noisy end of the spectrum.
At first the garden scene is tender and hopeful but it takes on a tone of darkness as the story is revealed to have greater depth: “She had known for a long time not to trust appearances at first glance, and that, eventually, people leaked secrets like a pesky tap. If you only watched long enough, it inevitably dripped.”
Readers learn on the first page that there have been several suicides in the neighbourhood, so the darkness is not unexpected, but where it appears in the narrative is unexpected. In the ordinary spaces, in the safe spaces.
The stories are also filled with cultural details like Watermelon Bubbalicious, Michael Jackson (June’s favourite song is “Rock with You”, “The Love Boat” with Captain Stubing’s memorable dinners, and pencil crayon colours.