April 18, 2011

Rabid Reads: "Sarah Court" by Craig Davidson

Sarah Court
by Craig Davidson
Chizine Publications (2010)
306 pages
ISBN: 1926851005, 978-1926851006

Sometimes, you may find yourself wondering about the secret lives of your neighbors. If you live on Sarah Court, those secrets are better left unsaid. Curiosity killed the cat--or squirrel--after all. For readers, safe and sound in our easy chairs, we can look on with a prurient disgust at the decaying lives of Sarah Court's residents. It's not a cheerful exploration. There are moments of dark humor, but overall this is a very bleak glimpse at a fictionalized segment of St. Catherine's, Ontario.

There's a kind of suburban Pulp Fiction quality to this book, as the story is told in five different sections through the eyes of five residents, all at one time or another living on that little street. The houses are identical on the outside, cheaply made and cheaply lived in. The slow torments and sudden rendering of each household is unique to each of those five houses, though.

Reading this book, Sarah Court slowly revealed itself as a spider's web. Otherwise separate threads all intersecting one another at different points, few if any leading to a happy ending. And while each family's story stands alone and tell its own story, it's those minute intersecting moments that allude to some grander story. Well, maybe "grander" isn't the right word, since "grand" gives the sense of something majestic. There's a huge, quiet tragedy happening occurring--one devastated life at a time.

The imagery is something that sticks with you, particularly the bursts of violence that befall some of the characters. Dylan Saberhagen's story is the one that sticks with me the most. An eleven-year-old boy with a weight problem and a boundless curiosity and imagination that earns him more bullying and ridicule than any one kid should be forced to endure. And seeing that boy through the eyes of his father Nick just makes it all the more heartbreaking.

It's not a horror novel, but the dark elements to this novel almost make Sarah Court feel like a malevolent force inflicting itself on these families. And while there is a hint of the supernatural to the book, it stays on the outskirts thankfully, otherwise it might have taken something away from the impact of the story. Even though the book is set in Ontario, there is something about Sarah Court and its residents that strikes close to home--and that might be where the real horror lies.

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