THE CHROME SUITE by Sandra Birdsell


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 Canadian writer Birdsell (Agassiz, 1991) elevates a mosaic of small moments into a moving composite of small-town life--this time in a slice-of-life about a 40-ish screenwriter who looks back after her lover is killed. In 1991, Amy Barber, who considers herself ``a reasonable facsimile of a civilized person,'' is traveling across Canada with Piotr, a Polish filmmaker she first loved because he was ``like the attraction of a clean page. I thought I could write myself on him.'' Now, however, Piotr has decided to return to Poland, and Amy uses their cross-country journey as an excuse to relive her past. The story's strongest sections are those set in the 1950s and '60s. The point of view switches among Amy's Bible-thumping mother, Margaret; her father, Timothy; Amy's brother, Mel, who's coming of age sexually; and her sister, Jill, whose sudden death brings the sequence to an end. After Jill's death, Amy lives through further trauma and disappointment: Her parents divorce, which, in a small Canadian town during the 1960s, is scandalous; Amy herself is raped at 17, then marries a dreary man who keeps money for himself while she's reduced to shoplifting. Later, she survives his desertion by working in a lounge and beginning to write scripts until eventually she meets Piotr, who will be accidentally shot and killed with his camcorder in hand when a hitchhiker pulls a gun on authorities at a roadblock. Birdsell's larger design is sometimes blurry--she tries to cover too much history too quickly--but her deftness at evoking adolescent lust, adult carelessness, and the permanent sadness inflicted by tragedy and provincialism makes for absorbing fiction.

Pub Date: April 19th, 1995
ISBN: 0-7710-1453-8
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1995