RATTLED by Debra Galant


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Snakes, super-moms and nervous social climbers star in this broad satire of the nouveau riche suburbs of New Jersey.

While there is little about Galant’s critique that is subversive, her intimate knowledge of her subject—for five years she wrote a column about suburban living for the New York Times—allows for a few devastatingly telling details, and an undercurrent of disaffection and anxiety that gives her portrait a bit of bite. For the most part, though, she paints the semi-fictional Hebron Township in strokes broad enough to cover the side of a newly renovated multimillion-dollar barn/loft. Evolution and Eden figure heavily: Law student Kevin Peters and his wife Heather make their way up the class ladder into the Galapagos Estates, and the dream house, a lakefront McMansion called “Walden.” But there are literal and figural snakes in their little piece of paradise: There’s a den of legally protected rattlesnakes near the property, for one, and then there’s the Peters’s son Connor, the overweight, oversexed terror of the third grade. Though Heather’s efforts to control and manipulate her world are nothing short of amazing, chaos, nature and eventually love, win out. Along the way we meet a witch-like environmentalist crone, a crusty old egg farmer, a sleazy developer and his mistresses (respectively serpentine and bovine) and a somewhat heroic local reporter. Heather is the wicked-Eve star of the show, a narcissist whose voracious ambition and hysterical efforts to keep up with the neighborhood’s Stepford Wives drive the seemingly innocent Kevin to distraction. The cartoon-like characters and the mostly happy ending are the stuff of a Hollywood-ready screenplay.

Entertaining comedic debut with a mild sting.

Pub Date: Feb. 21st, 2006
ISBN: 0-312-34931-9
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2005