Nicole Melanson ~
Cassie Hamer’s sophomore novel, The End of Cuthbert Close, is perfect pandemic reading for those feeling nostalgic for suburban life as we knew it only one month ago. Three close-knit women and their families find their idyllic community disrupted by the arrival of a fourth woman and her teenage daughter. The newly arrived Cara Devine is as cold as she is glamorous, rebuffing friendly overtures and social invitations, setting the neighbourhood into a tizz.
The End of Cuthbert Close duplicates the pacing and humour of Hamer’s first novel, After the Party, but the characterization is sharper and the storytelling more sophisticated. Featuring a strong ensemble cast, this novel covers all the bases with career woman Alex, homemaker Beth, single parent Cara, and every other shade of motherhood in between. Hamer achieves that rare goal of making each character equally interesting with believable backstories and compelling problems.
A special shout-out goes to online lifestyle guru The Primal Guy, Cara’s imminently arriving husband, whose sales-pitching newsletters sprinkle The End of Cuthbert Close with cringe-worthy comedy. Anyone who spends any time at all on social media will recognize The Primal Guy’s particular brand of enthusiasm, hubris, and opportunism. Hamer pulls all the stops with this voice, punctuating her overarching narrative with perfectly timed levity and irony.
There’s a reveal that I guessed at long before it happened, but this didn’t deter me from enjoying the progression of the narrative. The End of Cuthbert Close is fun escapism, and in such uncertain times, it’s nice to read a book where everything ties up neatly at the end.