Friday, March 27, 2020

REVIEW: A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler

Title: A Good Neighborhood
Author: Therese Anne Fowler
Genre: Adult Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderberry
Release Date: March 10, 2020
Acquired: Hardcopy sent via publisher
Goodreads: ADD

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.





It's never easy to review a book that had good intentions; a book that set out to cast a huge spotlight on a still largely ignored social injustice. Fowler attempted that with A Good Neighborhood, and while her writing was purposeful, it lacked so much of what was needed for such a heavy topic.

The Whitman family has recently moved into their rebuilt home in the sprawling and coveted neighborhood of Oak Knoll, North Carolina, much to the annoyance and frustration of next-door neighbor, and professor of ecology, Valerie Alston-Holt, but to the extreme pleasure of her 18-year-old son, Xavier. Pleasure because the Whitman family includes 18-year-old Juniper, who Xavier immediately falls for. As their romance blooms innocently in the background, the forefront is filled with the legal clashing of Valerie and Brad Whitman, after Valerie opens a civil case against Brad for the destruction of some beloved greenery in her backyard. Disturbing secrets are leaked and relationships are tested in this narrative that strives to go beyond surface-level issues, and straight into those that are begging for more awareness.

The author took the time to add a disclaimer at the start of the book, letting her readers know that she, a white woman, would be writing about black characters within, and assured us that she took the appropriate measures to ensure accuracy regarding their experiences. I appreciated her efforts, but I sadly found that she missed the mark with this novel. The writing was great, and her message, an extremely important one. Overall, I just felt like she lacked realistic emotion and subtleties during moments, and dialogue, where her black characters were suffering the most unspeakable injustices. It was a quick and addictive read nonetheless, I just wish more care was taken with the subject matter and those involved.



Read if you like:

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
Othello by William Shakespeare
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Key themes: 
racism, prejudice, family, relationships, power struggle, young love

Challenges:





credit: Goodreads author page


CLICK HERE to read about Therese on her author page.

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