Mae Roberts is certain her new life in the suburbs with her family will be everything she’s always wanted. That is, until one of the mothers from her daughters’ school goes missing.
Mae never thought she would fit in amongst the beautiful and rich mothers at Riverpark Elementary. Though, when she’s accepted into their clique and they ask her to be a part of their unofficial neighborhood watch, Mae finds herself slipping more and more into a world of odd dinner parties, secrets and lies, and even rumors of suicide attempts.
It’s only when one of the Riverpark Moms disappears, and then another, that Mae must decide what’s more important — fitting in or uncovering the truth.
A fresh take on belonging, obsession, and schoolyard politics, Burlington is a suspenseful debut novel that explores the exclusive world of wealthy mothers and demonstrates how privilege can come at a devastating price.
Read on for an interview with Heather Dixon, author of Burlington.
Q: Why is this book important to you personally?
A: The idea for this book came to me when I would walk my oldest daughter to school for the first time, back when she was in kindergarten. School was new for both of us, and it could have been my own hang up, but I felt out of place. While my daughter was making friends, I was noticing groups of parents and unwritten rules and was fascinated by this new world I didn’t know how to navigate. Also, I’ve always felt like the odd woman out, or like I didn’t quite belong. It’s been hard to find my place, even as an adult, and I wanted to explore that among female relationships.
Q: The book focuses largely on the theme of motherhood. What experiences as a mother helped you when writing the story?
A: Motherhood is one of those things that I wouldn’t say defines me entirely, because I also have many other sides to who I am, but it’s definitely been the most enormous change I’ve experienced in my life. And it’s also had the most significant impact on who I am now. After becoming a mother, I wanted to write about it so much, because that’s how I process my thoughts and feelings—and I had so many thoughts and feelings as a new mother. The intense emotions—both high and low—that came with every stage of motherhood shaped me. And I’ve found in the past, whenever I felt my most vulnerable as a mother and actually wrote about it in a blog, that was when my writing resonated the most with others.
Q: You also focus on the concepts of privilege and wealth. Why were those themes important for you to touch on?
A: I think I’m still trying to understand and articulate my thoughts on privilege and wealth. The fact that I live in an affluent neighborhood has a lot to do with it. For me, when I see something about the world that doesn’t make sense to me, I try to write out my thoughts to understand them. But these topics are ones I’m still working to understand.
Q: Are any characters inspired by you or people from your life?
A: All of the characters I write have little bits of many people in my life. Specifically, the character of Frankie is inspired by my mother. Frankie is just a really good, loving mom, and that’s who my mother is. I wanted to honor her in that way. Also, I gave Drew, Mae’s husband, some of my husband’s characteristics. Any good or sweet thing about Drew is from my husband because I think he’s just a really fantastic person. I also wrote this when my daughters were younger, so some of the things Ruby and Isla say and do, and the way they look, are inspired by my daughters.
Q: What do you hope readers gain from reading the book?
A: I hope readers are entertained by this book. I hope that they enjoy reading it and getting lost in the story for however long it takes them to read it. But I also hope, as I always do when I write, that someone will read it and think “Hey, I felt that way, too” or that they’ll see themselves on the pages and it will resonate with them.
Q: What are you working on next?
A: My next project is a book about three sisters who struggle with their father’s death (and his deceit) after learning of a long-held secret. It’s told from each sister’s point of view and it’s a story about the complicated nature of family and the ties that bind us together. It’s coming out in October 2023.
Heather Dixon is a managing editor of a nonprofit website and author of “Burlington.” She spent over a decade in the marketing and advertising industry as a copywriter, and has written about motherhood for a number of established websites. She lives just outside of Toronto, Ontario with her husband, her three young daughters and her Bouvier, Zoey. For more, visit her website heatherdixon.ca/.