A Good Neighborhood
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.

A Good Neighborhood Details

TitleA Good Neighborhood
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseFeb 4th, 2020
PublisherSt. Martin's Press
ISBN-139781250237279
Rating
GenreFiction, Contemporary, Adult, Adult Fiction, Race, Family, Realistic Fiction, Audiobook, Literary Fiction, Drama

A Good Neighborhood Review

  • Susanne Strong
    January 1, 1970
    5 Breathless, Stunning Stars. Actions. Circumstances. Ramifications. My Oh My! What a tangled Web You Weave!When you think of a suburban community, you think barbecues and book clubs. That’s exactly how life was in the quiet suburb of Oak Knoll. Life was positively idyllic, but of course, good neighbors sure are hard to find! Valerie Alston-Holt loves raising her teenaged son Xavier in the quiet neighborhood of Oak Knoll and both consider themselves lucky, until the drilling and demolition st 5 Breathless, Stunning Stars. Actions. Circumstances. Ramifications. My Oh My! What a tangled Web You Weave!When you think of a suburban community, you think barbecues and book clubs. That’s exactly how life was in the quiet suburb of Oak Knoll. Life was positively idyllic, but of course, good neighbors sure are hard to find! Valerie Alston-Holt loves raising her teenaged son Xavier in the quiet neighborhood of Oak Knoll and both consider themselves lucky, until the drilling and demolition starts next door, signaling that someone new is moving in. That someone is wealthy businessman Brad Whitman, his wife Julia and her daughters, Juniper and Lily, who are ecstatic to move to the town of Oak Knoll. Little do they know that their moving in has disrupted their neighbors’ peace as well as the land surrounding them. Tsk tsk, Brad. If only that was your first mistake!Tragedy awaits this little town - as the reader is immediately made aware. Everyone has a plan, and some are more selfish than others. Trust, for some, isn’t that easy. As for justice, hmm.So it begins. Chest tightness. Heart palpitations. Stomach a ball of nerves. I had my own suspicions about this novel as I began reading. I was sure, so very sure of what was going on. So darn sure. Yet my heart caught, my pulse pounded, my eyes filled. Then, here and now, I sit pondering, mesmerized at the sheer brilliance of Therese Anne Fowler’s writing in “A Good Neighborhood,” the character driven storyline and specifically, at the characters. The characters, whose personalities delight and/or vex me. Xavier, Juniper, Valerie, Julia and Brad. My, Oh My. What a Tangled Web You Weave.As soon as I read the synopsis for “A Good Neighborhood” I knew I had to read it. Little did I know once I started that it would top my list of favorites for the year. For me this book has it all and is a must-read. I hope you will grab it and love it just as must as I do. A huge thank you to Marissa and Naureen at St. Martin’s Press and to Therese Anne Fowler for an arc of this novel in exchange for an honest review. Published on Goodreads on 10.26.19. Will be published on Amazon in February of 2020 upon release.
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  • Elyse (retired from reviewing/semi hiatus) Walters
    January 1, 1970
    UPDATE.....( below)5 Phenomenal Affecting Stars!!!!Sooooo ENGROSSING!!!! Emotions and thoughts spin around and around in my head!!!They will for a LONG TIME! Huge Kudos to the author!!! She is insanely talented!!! Unbelievable how engaging - thought provoking - urgent - and - heartbreaking- this story is!!!Full Review still to come! NEW UPDATE: NO SERIOUS SPOILERS...“Most of us hide what troubles and confuses us, displaying instead the facets UPDATE.....( below)5 Phenomenal Affecting Stars!!!!Sooooo ENGROSSING!!!! Emotions and thoughts spin around and around in my head!!!They will for a LONG TIME! Huge Kudos to the author!!! She is insanely talented!!! Unbelievable how engaging - thought provoking - urgent - and - heartbreaking- this story is!!!Full Review still to come! NEW UPDATE: NO SERIOUS SPOILERS...“Most of us hide what troubles and confuses us, displaying instead the facets we hope others will approve of, the parts we hope others will like”.The characters in “A Good Neighbor” are protecting and hiding something. They have their agendas, their opinions, their judgements, their anger, their distrust, and their plans. The community and media will speculate and wonder who was to blame for the tragedies that will unfold between the two families who live next-door to each other. The reader is encouraged to examine our own thoughts: the different issues at hand - looking at circumstances - reasons - ideals - truth -lies -secrets- justifications - what’s right - what’s wrong - what would you do? what do you think the neighbors will do? —what do you agree with? - who do you believe? - who don’t you agree with? - what side are you on? Or —do you see yourself split down the middle, on both sides? The Whitman family, new to the close-knitneighborhood in Oak Knoll, North Carolina, lives next door to the Alston-Holt family. Most of the houses in the neighborhood are moderately built, including the Alston-Holt family. The only house that stands out as prestigious among all the other homes in size - - swimming pool and ultra modern amenities is the Whitman’s custom built home. Single mother, widowed, Valerie Alston-Holt, 48 yrs old, ( a black female Professor of forestry and ecology) and her 18 yr. old son Xavier ( biracial), classical guitar musician, An A-student -senior -in High School, (accepted to the San Francisco Conservatory of music in the fall), both tolerated the builders construction noise for many months before the Whitman family moved in. Brad and Julia Whitman, a wealthy white family, have two daughters: Juniper, 17, and Lily, 10.Each of the characters — in both families — (other than perhaps little Lily Whitman), had a full plate of problems. We learn back stories from each of the characters that has us understand where they were coming from... helping us understand the choices that they each made. It’s easy to make assumptions from stereotypes - but those assumptions will not particularly be the complete picture or true. Can we compare environmental protection to civil rights? Perhaps not... but Valerie’s passion for trees, (“we need to keep at least seven trees for every human on the planet, or else people are going to start suffocating”), was her life’s purpose. Had Valerie been alive during the civil rights movement..justice for racial equality might have been her life’s purpose.But today she felt saving the planet was where her life’s work could make the most difference. Tending her plants was her therapy...irises, peonies, azaleas, phlox snowdrops, camellias, rhododendrons, clematis, honeysuckle... etc. If the plant grew in North Carolina, Valerie installed it somewhere on their plot. Her magnificent oak tree with it’s wide trunk, was more than just a tree of arboreal history. She had a personal, and emotional connection to it. Her oak tree is what sold she and her husband, Tom, a young white sociology professor, on the house many years ago in the first place. Oak Knoll had been conceived in the boom years after the second world war with wide streets, sidewalks - and because it was North Carolina it was rich in both trees and small functional 3-bedroom homes- set on spacious tree-filled lots. Valerie spent many moments pressing her forhead against its “nubby gray-brown bark and cried while Xavier slept in his crib”.Xavier - just a baby- was too young to understand that his father, Tom, a white sociology professor, died in a freak accident. Brad Whitman, late 40’s, owner of the national growing business- an Air-Condition company, ‘Whitman HVAC’ - a man who worked from the ground up - made serious money. He was a local celebrity/ seen in TV commercials and radio. Normally - an enormous mansion - such as the one he just had built for his family - would be seen in a nearby community, ‘Hillside’. The Whitman’s had once lived in one of those neighborhoods...but Brad knew to get the extravagant ultra modern house he wanted for a mortgage he could afford, building his dream home in Oak Knoll, was more cost effective. He would still be able to drive his BMW, later his Maserati.....and Julia, 34 years old, who was once a financially struggling single mother with 10 year old Juniper, when they first met, could enjoy her new Lexus.Juniper and Lily could go to a private school.. which they did. The house that Brad built was the risk to the nearby trees. The large oak tree in Valerie‘s backyard was showing distress from the disruption of her trees’ root systems from the way the Whitman’s swimming pool was installed. Environmental corners had been cut while the Whitman’s house was being built. Not everything was up to code - when installing the swimming pool. Brad Whitman’s connections with a builder-friend allowed him to put his own needs above the integrity of the environment. His ‘corner-cutting’ would come back to haunt him. Valerie - planned to sue Brad for the damage to her Oak Tree. Her lawyer was asking for $500,000. Love thy neighbor vs. justice becomes a fascinating inquiry and debate. When Julia married Brad, her life was completely turned around... no longer living in a trailer home - and we wonder - did she marry him for love or money? Maybe both? Julia wanted her daughters in a private school away from bad influences that had led to so much trouble in her own growing life. In turn - Julia became overly protective and controlling mother. Juniper became a chaste Christian girl. She still had urges and temptations, but she was at peace - with her religious values - of not to have sex until marriage. She and Brad attended the purity ball when she was 16. She agreed to not have sex until marriage and Brad agreed to look out for her best interest. Girls at school teased Juniper... ( JeniPURE). It wasn’t fun being teased by other more sexually liberated girls at school - but Julia was - mostly’ able to hold her head high. She loved books - and was interested in attending college. Possibly to study Biology or zoology. She didn’t have time for boys anyway. ...Ha... in the same way Xavier didn’t have time for girls... with his studies, work, and music. But... Julia and Xavier will get together. Their connection was slowly developing into a substantial authentic mature relationship. Together they tried to not be influenced by Valerie and Brad’s disputes.... rather discover what was best for them. Julia was trying to fit into the neighborhood.She joined the book club which took place on Thursday nights at Valerie’s house. She only had to walk next-door. Valerie’s friends were all bright professionals in their 40’s and up -Julia - the youngest - new to the book club - was judged as a bourgeois/ snooty white rich woman....from the size of her house next-door to the foie gras dish she brought to share. Nobody ate her foie gras - because in order to make it, birds were force-feed in order to create a fatty liver. They put tubes down their throat’s. The women at the book club - more educated - wouldn’t touch Julia’s appetizer. Julia simply didn’t know about the ducks and geese.She had no idea - felt horrified- small - ‘less than’ - less valued - and intimidated. She tossed her foie gras in the trash. Julia wanted desperately to be part of the sisterhood with Valerie and her friends. So she opened up and shared of how she grew up-with her mother cleaning homes so they could afford their run down trailer. She also shared that Juniper was the result of a man who raped her. While Brad Whitman and Valerie Alston-Holt are fighting out their problem - young love between their kids - Juniper and Xavier are growing. I can’t express enough how terrific this novel is ....The issues are gripping. The intimacy of the characters - including the collective community narrative - sheds insightful compassionate details - giving this novel fully evocative power. “A Good Neighbor”, is totally my type of book...*Important fiction*!!!It’s a close inside look at the pressures of racism, justice, legal disputes, conservative religious beliefs, young adult love, parenting, and what it means to be a good neighbor. Author Meg Waite Clayton described my feelings to a ‘t’......“A provocative, timely, page turner, about the crucial issues of our time. I gulped it down, and the stunning conclusion left me both heartbroken and hopeful”HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!!!Thank you St. Martin’s Press, Netgalley, and Theresa Anne Fowler! I’m soooo a new fan!!!!
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  • etherealfire
    January 1, 1970
    I won this ARC in a GoodReads Giveaway - big thanks to the publisher, author and GoodReads fo this opportunity! I obsessively read this book all night until I was finished - and devastated by the heartbreaking ending. This heartbreaking story is timely and and all too plausible and the only thing that kept me going was a great story and poignant, heartbreaking protagonists that kept me invested till the bitter end. I loved Therese Anne Fowler's historical novel Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald so I won this ARC in a GoodReads Giveaway - big thanks to the publisher, author and GoodReads fo this opportunity! I obsessively read this book all night until I was finished - and devastated by the heartbreaking ending. This heartbreaking story is timely and and all too plausible and the only thing that kept me going was a great story and poignant, heartbreaking protagonists that kept me invested till the bitter end. I loved Therese Anne Fowler's historical novel Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald so much that I have been on a library waiting list to read A Well-Behaved Women: A Novel of the Vanderbilts and I was absolutely thrilled to win this book. It did not disappoint but it did break my heart.
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  • David Putnam
    January 1, 1970
    Love this book. Solid five stars. Won it on the Goodreads Giveaway contest. I predict it will instantly be a New York Times bestseller. I don’t say this too often but it’s the kind of book that I tell friends to, drop what they’re doing, go out and buy it.I’m a firm believer in the Fictive Dream, it’s what I need most in a book. To be dropped into a character driven story and live it with the character. If done correctly time stands still. When I come out of the fictive dream it seems like Love this book. Solid five stars. Won it on the Goodreads Giveaway contest. I predict it will instantly be a New York Times bestseller. I don’t say this too often but it’s the kind of book that I tell friends to, drop what they’re doing, go out and buy it.I’m a firm believer in the Fictive Dream, it’s what I need most in a book. To be dropped into a character driven story and live it with the character. If done correctly time stands still. When I come out of the fictive dream it seems like twenty minutes have passed and in reality, it’s four hours. Normally, narrator intrusion dispels the fictive dream. The Narrator steps in and interrupts the forward motion of the story to give the reader information. This book is stylistic and the narrator is actually the neighborhood, (really love this aspect). So instead of the third person close voice, or the “I” narrator it’s “We,” who is telling the story. The neighborhood “We,” stops the story and gives us needed information. And it works. But only because the author is a master at word craft and voice. Voice is the big kahuna in creating the fictive dream. It’s the everything of writing.The symbolism in this book is subtle yet obvious. The tree (at the root of the story) symbolizes life, and the encroaching neighbor--who is slowly killing off the tree--is everything that is wrong with society today. Brilliant. Love this book. It’s good vs evil, black vs white or vice versa. It’s also a parable of climate change and how if things don’t change the neighborhood is doomed.Highly recommend.David Putnam Author of the Bruno Johnson Series
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  • Dorie - Cats&Books :)
    January 1, 1970
    My feelings are all over the place on this one. I think it is extremely well written, the use of the third person omnipotent point of view is always an interesting view. I think it’s hard to use it successfully which this book did. The premise, though not a new one, is good and relatable. A story of a neighborhood where everyone knew each other, in an older suburb where the residents are now having to “make way” for the Brad Whitmans of the world.Valerie Alston-Holt is a widowed Afri My feelings are all over the place on this one. I think it is extremely well written, the use of the third person omnipotent point of view is always an interesting view. I think it’s hard to use it successfully which this book did. The premise, though not a new one, is good and relatable. A story of a neighborhood where everyone knew each other, in an older suburb where the residents are now having to “make way” for the Brad Whitmans of the world.Valerie Alston-Holt is a widowed African American woman raising a teenage son. She is a Forestry and Ecology professor and an advocate for keeping their neighborhood beautiful and ecologically sound. She almost grieves when the adjoining lot is cleared of large established, beautiful trees just for the purpose of clearing the land easily. Their new neighbors, the Whitman’s, have done just that. Cleared the beautiful land and installed a modern mini mansion complete with swimming pool, fast cars and expensive private schools for their two daughters. So we have the new money Whitmans, he’s a hustler and got in early in the air conditioning/heating business and he has a lot of disposable income. Julie was raised in a trailer park and met Brad before he really became wealthy but she definitely loved her new wealth, enjoying the house, pool, etc.When first these neighbors meet it almost seems as though there might be a chance for these two families to be able to exist side by side in spite of these differences. That was, however, before we started to understand the depths of Brad Whitman’s corruptions. He is manipulative, controlling and has been known to watch 15 year old Juniper more often than sounds “parental”. It is also before we are reminded of young love and it’s incredible strong pull. Through these characters we are made to feel this age again and try to understand that it was never supposed to end this way.The characters are a bit stereotypical, yes I know he is bi-racial, but that was my thought. That didn’t however take away from my enjoyment of the book.This is a quick roller coaster of a ride that is so much more dangerous than it first appears. I don’t want to give away any more of this multi-layered “cautionary” tale, this descriptive word is at one time mentioned in the book and I thought that was a perfect single word description This book flies along quickly and we are forced so many times to say “if even one of us had been privy to how Brad's mind worked, we would have stepped in and at least given Julia a heads, we would have seen the situation so differently”. I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through Edelweiss.This book is set to publish February 14, 2020 by St. Martin’s Press.
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  • Tammy
    January 1, 1970
    To write about the black experience as a white woman is a brave thing to do and being a white woman, myself, I don’t know if Fowler nailed it or not. In addition to racial profiling, class, white privilege, power, sexual abuse, and Christian conservatism this book tackles an ecological issue. All of these are timely topics and a lot to pack into one novel. Initially, the pacing is a bit slow but necessary to fully develop the characters whom I felt like I knew rather well. I liked the narration To write about the black experience as a white woman is a brave thing to do and being a white woman, myself, I don’t know if Fowler nailed it or not. In addition to racial profiling, class, white privilege, power, sexual abuse, and Christian conservatism this book tackles an ecological issue. All of these are timely topics and a lot to pack into one novel. Initially, the pacing is a bit slow but necessary to fully develop the characters whom I felt like I knew rather well. I liked the narration by the neighbors which functioned as a sort of Greek chorus. This is uncomfortable novel about coming of age and being a good neighbor with an event that changes the lives of everyone involved.
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  • Katie B
    January 1, 1970
    This was my first time reading a book by the author, and I have to say, I'm impressed. It's the type of story in which you keep thinking about the characters long after you are done reading. Would make an excellent book club selection!Valerie Alston-Holt is a professor of forestry and ecology so obviously nature is pretty darn important to her. She's been a single mother for years, raising her biracial teenage son and Xavier is quite the talented young man. The Whitmans have just mov This was my first time reading a book by the author, and I have to say, I'm impressed. It's the type of story in which you keep thinking about the characters long after you are done reading. Would make an excellent book club selection!Valerie Alston-Holt is a professor of forestry and ecology so obviously nature is pretty darn important to her. She's been a single mother for years, raising her biracial teenage son and Xavier is quite the talented young man. The Whitmans have just moved to the Oak Knoll, North Carolina neighborhood where they share a property line with Valerie. Brad Whitman is well-known in the community for being the owner of a thriving business. His wife, Julia, grew up in a trailer park so life is a bit different now living in a mansion and raising her two daughters. The tension between neighbors starts as a disagreement about a tree, but quickly develops into something much more and it will have lasting consequences for both families.One of my first thoughts after I finished the book was this is the type of story that is perfect for book club discussions. I honestly will be shocked if a celebrity doesn't nab this book for their monthly book club selection. There are basically five main characters in the story, the three parents and two teenagers, and each of them are fascinating and I keep finding myself thinking about their motivations, their actions, and the consequences. It's almost like playing a game of what if? as you are left wondering if character so and so had made a different decision would such and such have happened? A thought provoking novel for sure!This is my first time reading anything by Therese Anne Fowler and her writing style felt so unique. It was as if you were a part of this neighborhood, watching everything slowing unfold. And while I might have thought things got a bit heavy handed at times in the last few chapters, overall I thought this was a pretty special book that you don't get the chance to read very often. The story and the characters are really stuck in my head which is always a good thing so kudos to the author on a job well done.Thank you to St. Martin's Press for sending me an advance reader's copy! I was under no obligation to post my review and all views expressed are my honest opinion.
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  • Caroline
    January 1, 1970
    A Good Neighborhood is a realistic fiction that's as real as it gets. On the surface, it's about the forbidden love between two teens--one white and one biracial--but more deeply, it's about the extent of racism in America's broken criminal justice system. This book broke my heart.Complementary reading: White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About RacismNOTE: I received this as an Advance Reader Copy from Goodreads in September 2019.
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  • ☮Karen
    January 1, 1970
    I am familiar with Fowler's historical fiction, but this is her first contemporary novel for me. I won an advance copy from goodreads -- a year in advance. Expected publication is Feb. 2020. Can't wait to see the cover page added. Amazon shows one, so why not GR?For Valerie and her son Xavier, it seemed like a good neighborhood for them, a widowed black woman and her bi-racial teenager. Until, that is, Brad & Julia Whitmore and their 2 daughters moved in behind them, clear cuttin I am familiar with Fowler's historical fiction, but this is her first contemporary novel for me. I won an advance copy from goodreads -- a year in advance. Expected publication is Feb. 2020. Can't wait to see the cover page added. Amazon shows one, so why not GR?For Valerie and her son Xavier, it seemed like a good neighborhood for them, a widowed black woman and her bi-racial teenager. Until, that is, Brad & Julia Whitmore and their 2 daughters moved in behind them, clear cutting the lot and building the biggest mansion in the area with a swimming pool. Valerie was concerned about damage to the root system of a huge old tree in her yard, and concerned in general about the environmental damage people like Brad cause with little consequence for their actions. Brad has a rags to riches story, but it's gone to his head and he seems to think he can do no wrong. A real jerk.The story as told to us by a chorus of neighbors is one of racial & class division, teen love, morality, and a legal system that works differently for some than others. It is an American tragedy. A good story that is written in such simple prose, I wonder if it will be marketed to teens, which would make perfect sense. 3.5 stars.
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  • Donna
    January 1, 1970
    A Good Neighborhood is a simple book to read. It’s short, it has an interesting and relevant plot, the characters are believable. A simple book to read - and a complex storyline to absorb.When I first started reading, I was bemused by the narrator, who is apparently one of the neighbors, although exactly which one is a mystery. This tactic is captivating and kept me wondering throughout the story, but in no way overshadows the tale itself, which could have come right out of any current headlines A Good Neighborhood is a simple book to read. It’s short, it has an interesting and relevant plot, the characters are believable. A simple book to read - and a complex storyline to absorb.When I first started reading, I was bemused by the narrator, who is apparently one of the neighbors, although exactly which one is a mystery. This tactic is captivating and kept me wondering throughout the story, but in no way overshadows the tale itself, which could have come right out of any current headlines. Valerie Alston-Holt lives in an established, diverse neighborhood with her eighteen-year old son, Xavier. The area is on the cusp of becoming a highly desirable place for the wealthy to move into and to rearrange to their own style. In fact, that’s exactly what happens when the Whitman family demolishes the house and the vegetation on the lot adjacent to Valerie and builds a beautiful, brand-new home and pool. Brad Whitman is a newly wealthy businessman married to Julia and has two children, seventeen-year old stepdaughter Juniper and six-year old daughter Lily. Critical to the story is the fact that Xavier is bi-racial; his mother is African- American and his deceased father was white. The Whitmans are white. The families are friendly until too many circumstances, contrived and otherwise, place them on opposite sides of the newly built fence between them.I stated earlier that this is a simple book with a complex storyline. The complexity comes from the fact that simple things happen every day, as they did in this story, and they can lead to complex and terrible results. From the beginning we are told that we probably will make assumptions about what happened with these two families. I didn’t want to make those assumptions, yet I did. The devil was in the details, as they say. I didn’t know how the story would play out, and honestly, would not have guessed that it would happen as it did. What I assumed correctly was that it would be painful and sickening and that I would be angry at the outcome. There is more to A Good Neighborhood than what might seem obvious. Without giving spoilers, I will note that the book confronts several issues that plague the world in which we currently live. My first thought was that the author was trying to tackle too many topics in one short book, but she handled them all deftly and pointedly, and never did any of them seem unrealistic or overhyped. I wish there had been different outcomes to some of the situations, but sadly, they played out just as they likely would have in real life. Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.4 stars
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  • Camille Maio
    January 1, 1970
    Engrossing read that is so timely today. Fiction writing at its best - one that entertains and informs with equal skill. This is going to be a hit.
  • Denise Reed
    January 1, 1970
    Here I am once again to be a killjoy amongst all of the 4 and 5 star reviews ....I want to start off by saying that I love a book that isn't afraid to tackle tough, hot button issues straight on, and this book attempts to do so, and for that attempt, I give Fowler props; however, the issues for me started right off the bat. It took way too long to get to the "heart" of the premise. I was at Chapter 19 (and they weren't small chapters) and NOTHING substantive had taken place yet! Ther Here I am once again to be a killjoy amongst all of the 4 and 5 star reviews ....I want to start off by saying that I love a book that isn't afraid to tackle tough, hot button issues straight on, and this book attempts to do so, and for that attempt, I give Fowler props; however, the issues for me started right off the bat. It took way too long to get to the "heart" of the premise. I was at Chapter 19 (and they weren't small chapters) and NOTHING substantive had taken place yet! There was just way too much character development and description. Sort of an aside, but in the way of description, the lawsuit and the general angst over the oak tree just didn't work for me in any way. The whole thing was the textbook definition of a frivolous lawsuit, and I feel like the author could have found a better way to bring a meaningful issue to the table. I also took issue with the narrator. At the end of the book, I was still saying, "who the hell was the narrator?" I get that it was "the neighbors," but there were times when the third person neighbors/narrators seemed to be in the heads of the protagonists, and it just seemed out of line. For me, the most powerful part of the book, and where I believe Fowler was on to something, was in the racial profiling aspect. I was very moved by Valerie's situational reflections including her rumination, “White is white, black is black, biracial is still black.” It was a strong foreshadowing of the difference in both of the families, who faced events with their own prejudices that ultimately put them on a collision course that changed all of their lives. I just wished Fowler had delved deeper into the issue and didn't murky the waters with bizarre religiosity, hints of pedophilia, and the oak tree debacle - the book just didn't need it, and I thought it took away from the authenticity of the characters and plot. Overall, not a terrible read, but it just didn't live up to my expectations. 3 stars.
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  • Kelly Seifert
    January 1, 1970
    Great story. I especially like the little narratives in the beginning of the chapters.
  • Ashley
    January 1, 1970
    I devoured this book. I have been sharing it with family and friends, and I cannot wait for it to be published so others can enjoy it as much as I did.
  • Therese Fowler
    January 1, 1970
    I thought I'd share the following interview from the July 16th, 2019 issue of Shelf Awareness, in which I talk about many things including why I decided not to write another biographical-historical novel for my follow-up to A Well-Behaved Woman and Z. There are no real spoilers here. Thanks for reading.***********************************Therese Anne Fowler: The Sum of All Our PartsTherese Anne Fowler is the New York Times bestselling author of Z and A Well-Behaved/>Therese I thought I'd share the following interview from the July 16th, 2019 issue of Shelf Awareness, in which I talk about many things including why I decided not to write another biographical-historical novel for my follow-up to A Well-Behaved Woman and Z. There are no real spoilers here. Thanks for reading.***********************************Therese Anne Fowler: The Sum of All Our PartsTherese Anne Fowler is the New York Times bestselling author of Z and A Well-Behaved Woman. Z has been adapted for television by Amazon Studios, while A Well-Behaved Woman is in development with Sony Pictures Television. A Good Neighborhood, from St. Martin's Press, is a contemporary novel about a tragedy involving two neighboring families in a North Carolina town. The novel takes on divisive issues in American life such as race, class and conservative religion.Readers of your previous novels, Z and A Well-Behaved Woman, might be a little surprised by the direction you take here. What prompted you to write a contemporary novel?I'd planned to write another biographical historical novel, if I found a subject whose story engaged me passionately. But as I was researching various ideas for that potential next book, the seeds of A Good Neighborhood took root in my brain almost of their own accord, and grew like Jack's beanstalk. I thought, okay then, that's the book I have to write.In many ways, this novel is a response story. The tradition of response stories is that other works provoke them, but in this case, I was provoked by my distress over the direction our country is moving. Storytelling has many purposes, one of which is to inspire--I mean, look at The Handmaid's Tale for one powerful example. Storytelling as activism. I can't think of a better use for my time right now.Readers who know my work will recognize some TAF hallmarks, if you will, in A Good Neighborhood. Regardless of genre, my novels will always have a concern for social issues, interest in flawed but strong female characters and an examination of the troubling that arise from what seemed to be good decisions.Valerie has a deep connection to her local ecosystem, especially the nearby tree. Did that aspect of her character emerge from your own ecological concerns?It did, and especially from my anxieties concerning the health of a huge oak in my own backyard after a new house was built next door. Having been a child of the '70s, when green activism became so prevalent, I feel as if environmentalism was built into me--so much so that I used cloth diapers with my firstborn (and no diaper service; I had no money for that) and tried to avoid plastic toys entirely.I had, and still have, a deep affinity for nature, and I'm deeply troubled by the ongoing deliberate policymaking that disregards science in favor of corporate and individual profit. As Valerie (who's an environmentalist) says in the novel, "Trees are life. Not just my life, but life, period."One surprising choice in the novel is your use of the neighborhood as a Greek chorus or narrator for the events. Why did you want to emphasize the neighborhood's perspective?Every time I start a book, I spend a lot of time considering what the best narrative perspective is going to be for that particular story. With Z, it became obvious quickly that the story was Zelda's to tell. With A Well-Behaved Woman, I felt we needed to see not only Alva but the entire Vanderbilt world from a broader perspective than first-person would permit.When I began A Good Neighborhood, it was clear to me that the story also needed a broader view--but that the view, and therefore the voice of the story, should also be particular, the way it is with a first-person account.I thought, this is a story about us. These characters are people we know. We live with them, we work with them, they teach our children... and so it felt right that "we" should narrate. Using the collective point of view this way makes the story personal, and the personal is always more effective at conveying a message or lesson, as the narrators here tell us they hope to do.I found almost every character easy to like, despite their flaws, with the exception of the wealthy patriarch of the Whitman family, Brad. Did you have a model in mind for his self-confident-bordering-on-delusional thinking?Unfortunately, there are more than plenty of Brad-like men present in our news cycles these days, some of whom we've gotten to see in-depth. I've also known (and still know) a few such men personally.A Forbes article from last summer [2018] reported on a study detailing how and why such men are often so successful in business, summarizing, "...research has found that narcissists are often socially successful, undeterred by rejection, charming, and highly motivated."An earlier study's authors wrote, "[H]igh narcissists may be socially callous, but that is no reason for them not to be psychologically healthy. To use a far-fetched metaphor, the mind of a narcissist is like a sports utility vehicle. It is great to be in the driving seat, but fellow motorists must watch out, lest a collision with this mobile fortress demolish their more humble hatchbacks."That's Brad, and that's our story.The book tackles many hot-button issues, particularly racial prejudice and the dangers faced by young black or mixed-race men like Xavier. How did you make sure that you approached these issues with a level of sensitivity and understanding?Yes, definitely a lot of interrelated big issues in this story--which wasn't by design, exactly; rather, I was just reflecting the complexities inherent in the lives and characters of people today. You really can't (and shouldn't, if you're trying to create truth) separate out race and class and gender and beliefs and occupation and culture and family. We are each the sum of all our parts.Tackling racial prejudice, though, was the most delicate matter. So before I wrote the book, I read a lot of personal essays and articles detailing a wide variety of experiences with prejudice. I watched documentaries and interviews and news programs wherein the subjects recounted their stories, and wherein racial discrimination was examined in all its vast, ugly truth.I read articles on the ways white authors, even well-meaning ones, too often make egregious mistakes when writing about non-white characters. Drawing from my own educational background in sociology and cultural anthropology helped, as did recalling observations I made while growing up in a diverse community and, later, the experience of being a minority during the three years I lived in the Philippines. And I asked questions of people I knew, including a friend of mine who in many ways resembles Valerie and who read the book in draft.An author is always obliged to put themselves into the lives of the characters they're depicting. My own approach is something like method acting. Given the parameters of the character's traits and situation(s), how would that character think? What would they say and do? You can only do this well if you're sufficiently armed with information, humble about mistaken apprehensions and able to get out of your own way in order to give a truthful performance. I hope I was able to do so.One thing that struck me about the book was the complicated power dynamics between and within the two families. Is there something you wanted to capture about how varying levels of privilege can distort relationships?I think what I was aware of trying to do was simply to represent the complexities that comprise most relationships, and specifically the ones that would arise from putting these characters together.Many years ago, John Gardner wrote about how if verisimilitude is the writer's object (and really, it had better be), authorial intention must be submissive to the authorial subconscious. A lot of what ends up on the page gets there through what feels like a mysterious organic process that's independent from deliberate authorial direction. For example, the scene in which Julia comes to the neighborhood book club meeting at Valerie's house: until I was writing the sentence about the food she brought, I didn't know she'd bring foie gras, but the choice then triggered other telling details about class and power for Julia versus the others present. The dynamic between Brad and Xavier at the book's opening is another example of just putting the characters in a scene together and then watching it play out as I typed.But thinking about it concretely now, I wanted to capture what happens when the kind of corrupt thinking that can come from privilege perverts power, and therefore distorts relationships.What do you think it means to be a good neighbor in an era when Americans seem so divided by class, politics and race?I think the criteria are the same as they've always been: follow the Golden Rule. I don't mean to sound pat, but it's that simple. And also that hard. --Hank Stephenson
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  • Dianah
    January 1, 1970
    When the Whitman family moves into the quiet Oak Knoll neighborhood, they have finally achieved ultimate success: home, family, and happiness. But their arrival has caused the unraveling of a chain of events, and there is no stopping what is on its way. Narrated by a Greek chorus of neighbors, who see all and know all, they are nonetheless drawn into the vortex that the Whitmans create, and the scene is set for an explosion. Fowler writes a timely story about race, wealth inequality, young love, When the Whitman family moves into the quiet Oak Knoll neighborhood, they have finally achieved ultimate success: home, family, and happiness. But their arrival has caused the unraveling of a chain of events, and there is no stopping what is on its way. Narrated by a Greek chorus of neighbors, who see all and know all, they are nonetheless drawn into the vortex that the Whitmans create, and the scene is set for an explosion. Fowler writes a timely story about race, wealth inequality, young love, the failure of the disaster we call a justice system, and the realities of a choice that somehow blows everything to shards. The tension ratchets up with every page turned, until the American dream turns into a national nightmare. Do not miss this searing look at American life and the consequences of living it.
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  • Sharon Huether
    January 1, 1970
    When a new neighbor moved into a grand home in a modest neighborhood, Valeria Alston-Holt, their nearest neighbor and the Whitman's share an old Oak tree between their yardsValerie saw her beloved oak tree loosing leaves and looking tired. She wanted to sue the Whitman's and their builder for disturbing her tree with the building of their home.As a result nothing was what it once was before the Whitman's moved in. A very sad ending. I will not forget this story.The When a new neighbor moved into a grand home in a modest neighborhood, Valeria Alston-Holt, their nearest neighbor and the Whitman's share an old Oak tree between their yardsValerie saw her beloved oak tree loosing leaves and looking tired. She wanted to sue the Whitman's and their builder for disturbing her tree with the building of their home.As a result nothing was what it once was before the Whitman's moved in. A very sad ending. I will not forget this story.The author made all the words flow. I like her writing.I won this free book from Goodreads First reads.
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    I could not put this book down. From the opening sentence to the tragic ending, Therese Anne Fowler has created a story that is current and believable. Don't miss this one - it's stunning conclusion will stay with you long as you finish the last page. #AGoodNeighborhood; #GoodReads
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  • Cam
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you netgalley and author for this book to review. I have to start by saying I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading this book. I had seen it several times on goodreads and I was interested. This book took me so long because I had a feeling I knew where this was going.... and didn’t care for where this was going. After reading things like this I will have a not so good attitude afterwards, because these type of topics (excuse the bluntness).... piss me off! Knowing the history o Thank you netgalley and author for this book to review. I have to start by saying I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading this book. I had seen it several times on goodreads and I was interested. This book took me so long because I had a feeling I knew where this was going.... and didn’t care for where this was going. After reading things like this I will have a not so good attitude afterwards, because these type of topics (excuse the bluntness).... piss me off! Knowing the history of how black men have been falsely accused in our past and in the present ..... I wasn’t a fan of the topic. But I think this would be a great book for a book club .... because I’m sure it would bring up interesting conversations. 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. The some is black and the daughter is white in the south. Told in 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.
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  • Jackie
    January 1, 1970
    I won this in a Goodreads giveaway. Fun and easy read book
  • emma
    January 1, 1970
    i was given an ARC of a good neighborhood (unsolicited) and wow everything about it is a Bad Concept from start to finish!!!i tweeted about this book the other day and have zero interest in reviewing it, so i'll link my little summary. content warnings for racism, murder, suicide, rape/sexual assault, pedophilia, incest, and possibly more things i missed while skimming through to the end. also spoilers i guess,,, if you care? https://twitter.com/emmazenik/status/...
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  • Laura Rash
    January 1, 1970
    I’m not sure how I feel about this book. It was an intriguing story with timely matters but it seemed as if too many facets were packed into one book. It also left me feeling a tad depressed.
  • Jill
    January 1, 1970
    We know a few things right from the first page: at the end of the book, there is going to be a funeral. And we know the consequences of this funeral continues to reverberate; this “good neighborhood” is “still maintaining its tenuous peace, a loose balance between old and new, us and them.”So what we have here is an old-fashioned tragedy, and if we’re left with any doubt, the “voice” of the book puts them to rest. Like an ancient Greek chorus, the neighborhood speaks in first person We know a few things right from the first page: at the end of the book, there is going to be a funeral. And we know the consequences of this funeral continues to reverberate; this “good neighborhood” is “still maintaining its tenuous peace, a loose balance between old and new, us and them.”So what we have here is an old-fashioned tragedy, and if we’re left with any doubt, the “voice” of the book puts them to rest. Like an ancient Greek chorus, the neighborhood speaks in first person plural; throughout the book, we get perspective from the amorphous “we.” The reader has seen this technique done before – for example, in Brit Bennett’s The Mothers—and when it’s used judiciously, it makes for powerful reading.Therese Anne Fowler uses this technique well. The tragedy-to-be is set into motion when a self-promoting and charismatic HVAC owner named Brad movies into a large newly-constructed house in a North Carolina suburb with his wife, their daughter, and her teenager, Juniper. A beautiful and modest teen, Juniper has been very sheltered and has taken a purity vow to have Brad guard the “precious gift” of her virginity until marriage. Their neighbors, Valerie Alston-Holt, a black professor of ecology and her biracial teenage son Xavier live next door. Xavier is getting ready to embrace a limitless future: he is a gifted classical guitarist with a college scholarship awaiting him and he is handsome, grounded, and sensitive. But then the teens embark on a Romeo-Juliet romance and in a heartbeat, everything changes.There are times when Ms. Fowler over reaches. She tackles not only racial injustice and social class distinctions but also the ecological devastation of overbuilding. As a reader, I felt the potential consequences of Valerie’s passion in seeking justice for the destruction of her majestic oak tree should have been clear to her. She had known slimy people like Brad before and knew what they were capable of when pushed against the wall.Yet despite some moments of “the wizard behind the curtain” – i.e., understanding that the author is standing just off-stage and directing the reader to feel a certain way – the book is still compellingly readable. The unequal administration of justice based on race feels heartbreakingly effective. I felt as if I were watching a train wreck, wanting to look away yet compulsively turning pages. It is not a perfect book but it is certainly one that is difficult to forget.
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  • Amy Imogene Reads
    January 1, 1970
    So excited!Thank you to St Martin’s Press for an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.
  • Tina
    January 1, 1970
    This novel might better be titled “A Good Neighbor” as it revolves around two neighbors who drastically differ in their concept of what makes a good neighborhood. It begs the question “Is a good neighborhood what we make of it or what we want others to perceive it makes of us?” Fowler develops her storyline around Valerie, who deeply values nature and in particular, a hundred year old oak tree, and Brad, the new neighbor who seems to value himself but appears as the ultimate 'nice guy' to everyo This novel might better be titled “A Good Neighbor” as it revolves around two neighbors who drastically differ in their concept of what makes a good neighborhood. It begs the question “Is a good neighborhood what we make of it or what we want others to perceive it makes of us?” Fowler develops her storyline around Valerie, who deeply values nature and in particular, a hundred year old oak tree, and Brad, the new neighbor who seems to value himself but appears as the ultimate 'nice guy' to everyone. Their children, Xavier (Valerie's) and Juniper (Brad) also are a very real part of the storyline and they seem to represent the next generation who are more tolerant and learning about life through each other’s eyes. Although Juniper took a Purity vow, she is attracted to Xavier and has decided that she would like to date, however there is resistance from her step-dad Brad therefore the issue never comes up. Brad has his own agenda which, when it collides with the relationship Juniper and Xavier have developed, leads to tragedy. There is also Julia, the wife of Brad and their youngest daughter, Lily. All these players represent their circumstances and they all bring depth and value to the plotline as we see how innocence can be destroyed through the confusion between helplessness and manipulation from those who are entitled. What happens in “A Good Neighborhood” really does happen and Fowler sheds light on how exactly it can. A thoughtful, entertaining and provoking book. Although this nove isn't on the shelves yet, look for it when it is. It is a worthy read.
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  • lovebooks
    January 1, 1970
    A Good Neighborhood is an interesting read. It centers around two very different families. I do not usually read this genre but I found this book very interesting and important for this day and age. You never know what goes on in ‘good neighborhoods’.
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  • Meg Clayton
    January 1, 1970
    I loved Therese Anne Fowler's provocative new novel, which begins as a story about how a nice, middle-class neighborhood incorporates the addition of a home built by a new, wealthy neighbor, but evolves into a thought-provoking novel about so many things, including race and religion, single parenting, gender, young love--and older love--and the environment. I gulped it down in three sittings, which is fast for me even when I am not in Paris, which I was when reading this. It is hard to put down, I loved Therese Anne Fowler's provocative new novel, which begins as a story about how a nice, middle-class neighborhood incorporates the addition of a home built by a new, wealthy neighbor, but evolves into a thought-provoking novel about so many things, including race and religion, single parenting, gender, young love--and older love--and the environment. I gulped it down in three sittings, which is fast for me even when I am not in Paris, which I was when reading this. It is hard to put down, and will leave you somehow both heartbroken and hopeful.From a writerly standpoint, I loved the third person plural point of view, with unidentified neighbors telling the story. It's a really interesting retrospective voice that allows for comment and consideration, lifting this book from your everday pageturner into much more.
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  • Julie Toole
    January 1, 1970
    This book ripped me apart. How can love end so badly? It ended terribly for Juniper with the loss of Xavier. For Xavier for the ordeal he was put through. For Julia when she sees Brad for who he really is. For Brad who convinces himself that Juniper loves him. For Valerie who loses a husband, a son and a tree. Tragic yet eye opening to the dangers non-white men fear, Therese Anne Fowler portrays a believable cast of characters and situations that stun the reader.Favorite quotes: This book ripped me apart. How can love end so badly? It ended terribly for Juniper with the loss of Xavier. For Xavier for the ordeal he was put through. For Julia when she sees Brad for who he really is. For Brad who convinces himself that Juniper loves him. For Valerie who loses a husband, a son and a tree. Tragic yet eye opening to the dangers non-white men fear, Therese Anne Fowler portrays a believable cast of characters and situations that stun the reader.Favorite quotes:“...how can we know for absolute certain when love is real unless it’s been tested by time?”“What has more meaning to humankind than words? Without a call to action, change rarely occurs. ‘Start here,’ please, in communion with one another despite our differences, recognizing that without ‘start’ there is no ‘end.’
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  • Mary McBride
    January 1, 1970
    A thoughtful story of young love mixed in with racial prejudice in the south-Very relevant issues. Can blacks and whites coexist in the good neighborhood and see each as equals???
  • Donna Hines
    January 1, 1970
    The American Dream altered by two different families with two different perspectives on racial equality, crimes of passion, and single parenting.For me the Good Neighborhood was about making a mark from a white author by including a bi-racial son and while I read the opening points from the author I felt it was disjointed and forced.The action was way too slow to reveal the importance of the characters and the accusations they were facing in terms of murder, rape, etc...The ide The American Dream altered by two different families with two different perspectives on racial equality, crimes of passion, and single parenting.For me the Good Neighborhood was about making a mark from a white author by including a bi-racial son and while I read the opening points from the author I felt it was disjointed and forced.The action was way too slow to reveal the importance of the characters and the accusations they were facing in terms of murder, rape, etc...The idea of the racial tensions for me was not free flowing but felt like I was reminded of it throughout the book and as a reader I don't want to be focused on the color of the skin but rather the writing style and format being offered.The entire idea behind the book just wasn't for me but that doesn't mean it won't be a good fit for those empty nesters out there.I can note that Brad Whitman seems to be a real charmer and quite wealthy but will that wealth help or hurt him....Teen romance is never an easy topic but when you can't see eye to eye it becomes a bit more complicated.I hope you enjoy this read as I'm sure as the author noted she did her research but for me it just fell short.
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