60-Second Critic: Rattled

By Debra Galant
(St. Martin’s Press; $21.95)
Heather Peters is a shallow, bored and ambitious New Jersey housewife who gets the home of her dreams in Burlington County—only to discover that rattlesnakes abound in what she thought was paradise. In this satiric take on suburbia, New York Times contributor and first-time novelist Galant wins us over with her farcical digs at soccer moms, consumerism, McMansions, animal-rights activists, shady real estate developers and other mainstays of modern life. It’s wicked good fun until the lackluster denouement, when Heather half-learns the error of her ways. After coming to hate her, we’re now supposed to empathize? The sharpness of Galant’s writing is a plus, but the whole novel feels like shorthand—the empty skin of a snake put out there to shock us, with no real scary revelation inside.