The Chrome Suite
Emblem Editions, McClelland & Stewart, 2002
Virago Press, 1994
McClelland & Stewart 1992
Set in Manitoba, the Chrome Suite reaches back nearly four decades into the life of present-day scriptwriter Amy Barber and, layer by layer, uncovers the effects of loss and absence, and of the inadvertent damage that can be done within the most well-meaning of families.
Amy, now in her forties, reconstructs the events that brought her to where she is today. The narrative moves from a small Manitoba town during on extraordinarily hot summer at the close of the 1950s when the death of Amy’s sister changes everything, to the 1960s and the 1970s when Amy marries, goes to live in the city, and begins to have reason to fear for her young son.
Birdsell’s haunting, almost tactile evocation of the dangerous territory of the past is infused with an uneasy nostalgia. And the story of Amy Barber, her parents, Margaret and Timothy, her brother, Mel, and sister, Jill, is paralleled by the present day as Amy travels by car from Toronto to Winnipeg with her younger lover, Piotr, a Polish filmmaker. This is a journey shadowed by the future and by the disturbing presence of a hitchhiker.
The Chrome Suite is an emotionally charged novel of darkness and light. Sandra Birdsell’s unforgettable characters are portrayed as complex, fallible beings and, through them, she explores the private, sometimes cruel realm of relationships and the universal quest for an often elusive self-acceptance.
Vividly descriptive, darkly humorous, erotic, and moving.
Medals & Ribbons
- Finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction
- MacNally Robinson Book of the Year
Praise for The Chrome Suite
- “As Margaret Atwood captured the tensions that divide young girls in Cat’s Eye, so Birdsell explores the tensions–sexual, emotional, territorial–that fill Amy Barber’s house…. The Chrome Suite seems to have been written from some deep, dark well of inspiration.” — Books in Canada
- “Birdsell’s voice is … rich with surprise and guileless wit…. (She) deftly depicts four decades of an aimless, refreshingly unselfconscious life.” — New York Times Book Review
- “Birdsell tightly controls the rich detail, the intense emotions of her story…. I celebrate the publication of this extraordinary novel…. As good as it gets. … a miraculous novel.” — Globe and Mail
- “A masterful new novel, which places (Birdsell) among the best Canadian writers today.”
— Montreal Gazette
- “The human landscape and the complexities of relationships ring true. Birdsell’s ability to enter the hearts of her characters keeps us hooked.” — Calgary Herald
- “Part testimony, part remembrance, part discovery, Sandra Birdsell’s new novel, The Chrome Suite, goes inside out to tell a story of loss and remembrance…. The writing is always a joy, the kind that slows the reader down to savour every vivid moment.” — Quill and Quire
- “Birdsell writes brilliantly about childhood, family relationships and small town life.” — Toronto Star
- “This novel has the power of all uncompromising fiction; Sandra Birdsell’s hard-edged accurate prose and her unfailingly intelligent observations of the way people live are deeply satisfying to read.” — Winnipeg Free Press
- “Birdsell fills (the) air with booksong worthy of undistracted attention.” — Ottawa Citizen