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The Watermelon Social is a collection of assorted tales about suburban life in eastern Canada (being from Ontario I wasn’t even aware that they HAD suburbs in eastern Canada, apparently they do). Most of these stories explore the alienation and dissatisfaction of suburban life and the things that people do to deal with them. I typically find it to be the case that when an author puts out a collection of his or her short stories there tends to be a considerable amount of filler; The Watermelon Social is no exception to this rule. That isn’t to say that there are any particularly terrible stories in this collection, but there certainly are a few that are somewhat mediocre. That being said, there are also some truly funny gems in this collection that more than make up for its duller constituents. Among the most enjoyable were “Strange Girls” a funny piece about a frustrated teen with annoying neighbours, pretentious classmates and somewhat out of touch parents. Also quite funny was “Year of the Horse” a story that looks at the musings of a writer who works in the obituary section of a newspaper. McClusky has a strong handle on contemporary pop culture and subcultures and this is clearly reflected in her ability to plausibly capture the various colloquialisms of today’s youth. Overall this is a pretty solid read, although I may skip over the first couple stories if I were you. (Thom Bator)

by Elaine McCluskey, $25.95, 137 pgs, Gaspereau Press, 47 Church Ave., Kentville, NS, B4N 2M7,

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