At a Glance
Title: A Good Neighborhood
Author: Therese Anna Fowler
Expected Published: March 10, 2020 by St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Goodreads Rating: 4.04 out of 5
My Rating: ★★★★★
“In 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 is headed to college in the fall, and after years of single parenting, Valerie is facing the prospect of an empty nest. All is well until the Whitmans move in next door―an apparently traditional family with new money, ambition, and a secretly troubled teenaged daughter.
Thanks to his thriving local business, Brad Whitman is something of a celebrity around town, and he’s made a small fortune on his customer service and charm, while his wife, Julia, escaped her trailer park upbringing for the security of marriage and homemaking. Their new house is more than she ever imagined for herself, and who wouldn’t want to live in Oak Knoll? With little in common except a property line, these two very different 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.
Told from multiple points of view, A Good Neighborhood asks big questions about life in America today―What does it mean to be a good neighbor? How do we live alongside each other when we don’t see eye to eye?―as it explores the effects of class, race, and heartrending star-crossed love in a story that’s as provocative as it is powerful.”
Before I even jump into my review of A Good Neighborhood, two things. 1. I read this book in less than 5 hours, in one night. 2. I now have a book hangover, a very serious book handover. Does this give you a good idea of what I thought about this book yet?
I had so many feelings while reading this book. I felt anger, outrage, sad, and confused. Most times I was feeling 3+ emotions at once. Told from the perspective of the folks in ‘the neighborhood’ where the events take place, the narration and the jump between perspectives was a refreshing twist on story telling. I really enjoyed getting to see the view points of each of the individual characters, it added a significant amount of depth to the story for me.
The relationships that Fowler has built are beautifully woven together, and without being too much of a cliché, she has generated a real modern day Romeo & Juliet story. When we first join ‘the neighborhood’ we meet the Whitman family, who have recently built their new house next to Valerie and her son. When Valerie notices that the Whitman’s construction has caused significant environment damage to the area, in particular an Oak tree on her property, she files a lawsuit against the family and their builder. As an Ecology professor, I can understand her motive behind the lawsuit.
In the meantime Valerie’s son Xavier, a promising classical guitarist with a scholarship to college, and the oldest Whitman daughter Juniper are fostering a blooming relationship. When Mr. Whitman stumbles upon the two in a secluded cabin, he quickly decides to use this to his advantage by accusing Xavier of rape, in the hopes of getting Valerie’s lawsuit dropped. This is really the turning point for the story and honestly I’m still upset over the rest of the events.
This book truly captures what it means to be a good neighbor but it also tackles big topics such as racism, classism, privilege, sexual violence, and how the justice system works.
Xavier, a half black teenager, is dealt the worst hand in this book and really goes to show how even though our justice systems says ‘Innocent until proven guilty’, it frequently isn’t the case. The added hardship of being in The South, even in today’s world, just ads an extra level of injustice to the case for Xavier.
On the other hand, Juniper voices goes unheard throughout the entire sexual assault charge. I just can’t get over how even though she says the sex was consensual , how so many people would listen to her step dad, Mr. Whitman over her. UGGHHH, I cannot even put into words how frustrating this was.
I have all the thoughts for this book so if anyone wants to chat further about it please let me know! This is a must read for anyone! I wish I could give this book more than ★★★★★.
This book comes out today March 10th! If you think you’d like to read this book, get your copy HERE!
I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on A Good Neighborhood. If you liked this review please let me know either by commenting below or by visiting my instagram @speakingof_books. Huge thank you to St. Martin’s Press & Netgallery for my advance copy of the book. All opinions are my own.
About the Author
Therese Anne Fowler is a New York Times and USA Today best selling author whose novels present intriguing people in difficult situations, many of those situations deriving from the pressures and expectations of their cultures as well as from their families.
Her books are available in every format and in multiple languages, and are sold around the world. Z has been adapted for television by Amazon Studios. A Well-Behaved Woman is in development with Sony Pictures Television.
Therese earned a BA in sociology and cultural anthropology and an MFA in creative writing, both from North Carolina State University. She has been a visiting professor and occasionally teaches fiction writing at conferences and workshops. A member of Phi Beta Kappa and PEN America, she is married to award-winning professor and author John Kessel. They reside in North Carolina.
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