The suburbs as a “Great Wrong Place”

In a review of mysteries written by women, one critic explains why suburbs are a common setting:

In the books I’ve been reading, the Great Wrong Place is sometimes suburbia, sometimes social media, sometimes high school, sometimes the marriage bed—everywhere something feels missing in contemporary life.

There is not much explanation here. However, this taps into a familiar suburban critique: the suburbs are a darker place than they appear. Even though they might be the image of the American Dream, many disturbing situations are underneath the surface. The key is the contrast between the displayed success of the single-family home and happy family and the tension that threatens to bubble to the surface.

What then exactly is missing from suburbs? Authentic displays of human difficulty and anguish (residents don’t talk about this stuff, perhaps because being vulnerable in the suburbs leads to social problems)? A lack of diversity in who lives there (the typical suburb is white and middle-class and shuts out other experiences)? Public spaces where residents can regularly mingle without having to have strong interpersonal relationships (everyone is cooped up inside their private spaces)? Whatever the reason, the suburbs provide rich spaces for today’s mystery (such as Gone Girl) and horror stories.

One thought on “The suburbs as a “Great Wrong Place”

  1. Pingback: Creative writing at the suburban shopping mall | Legally Sociable

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