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Review: A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler

Title: A Good Neighborhood

Author: Therese Anne Fowler
Year published: 2020
Category: Adult fiction
Pages: 320 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location: (my 2023 Google Reading map)USA (NC)

SummaryIn Oak Knoll, a verdant, tight-knit North Carolina neighborhood, professor of forestry and ecology Valerie Alston-Holt is raising her bright and talented biracial son, Xavier, who’s headed to college in the fall. All is well until the Whitmans―a family with new money and a secretly troubled teenage daughter―raze the house and trees next door to build themselves a showplace.

With little in common except a property line, these two families quickly find themselves at odds: first, over an historic oak tree in Valerie's yard, and soon after, the blossoming romance between their two teenagers.

Review: I got this book from Book of the Month Club soooo long ago and I am glad I finally got around to reading it.

While on the outside this is the story of two neighbors, in a "good" neighborhood, who are at odds with one another, there is really so much more. Neighbor gossip and assumptions serve as the narrator giving the reader background on the setting, the history, and how others perceived the events of the plot. Chapters are told in third person, but still manage to give the perspectives of different characters as the story progresses. 

Valerie and Xavier are doing well as bright, interesting, good neighbors. Yes, they are on their own after the death of Valerie's husband/Xavier's dad, but they have each other and are settled in a home they love. Along come the Whitman's with their new money, McMansion, and a very different set of values (there is a lot of talk about the Purity Promise and all that it entails). The clash of these two neighbors could be taken at face value until Xavier and Juniper start to date.

I don't want to give anything away, but this is when the story really picks up and I felt like I was on the down slope of a roller coaster. Everything spirals out of control and issues of class, race, marriage, parent/child relationships, and what it means to trust and make assumptions come out. It's a whirlwind last third of the book and it really makes the reader think.

Challenges for which this counts:
  • Literary Escapes--North Carolina

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