The Watermelon Social


137 pages
ISBN 1-55447-020-X
DDC C813'.6





Reviewed by Linda M. Bayley

Linda M. Bayley is a freelance writer based in Sudbury, Ontario. She is
the author of Estrangement: Poems.


“I like the bustle of the city,” says the World’s Strongest Woman,
“the rise and ebb of people, and I like the peace of the country; I
just don’t like what’s in between.” This is a woman living in a
suburb her husband chose “for its banality,” a woman who once had a
clear purpose in life, but lost it after a weightlifting accident
involving a baby elephant named Lulu.

Welcome to Elaine McCluskey’s version of suburbia. The Watermelon
Social is filled with characters like the World’s Strongest Woman, all
trying to make sense of suburban life and find their place in it, with
varying degrees of success. Some have only ever known this life, like
Jimmy, a teenager who doubts his ability to make it through the Halifax
winter without a snow blower, and who understands his parents (a
1970s-holdover father and a high-on-life gourmand mother) less and less.
Others have come to it gradually or accidentally, like the sportswriter
who married a woman he didn’t love because he was afraid of what she
would think of him if he didn’t. For most of them, the prognosis is
not good; they will continue to be unhappy and uncertain in their dreary
little lives. But some of them, like the 260-pound woman who remembers
that she has a “beautiful travelled bosom,” manage to reclaim a part
of themselves that they had forgotten. The reader is left knowing that
these ones will manage to make their way in the world.

McCluskey’s stories are remarkable, clear-eyed portraits of the world
of hosers, poseurs, emos, and supermoms. For anyone needing a suburban
reality check, The Watermelon Social should be required reading.


McCluskey, Elaine., “The Watermelon Social,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 24, 2024,