Saturday, March 28, 2020

Book Review: A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler

Inside the Book:

Title: A Good Neighborhood
Author: Therese Anne Fowler
Release Date: March 10, 2020 
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Genre: Coming of Age/Contemporary Literary Fiction
Format: Ebook/Paperback/Hardcover/Audio
Source: BOTM/Personal Library


"A provocative, absorbing read." — People

“A feast of a read... I finished A Good Neighborhood in a single sitting. Yes, it’s that good.” —Jodi Picoult, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Small Great Things and A Spark of Light
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, 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.

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 love in a story that’s as provocative as it is powerful.

How do I describe A Good Neighborhood? I have to admit that I felt it started a little slow. White family with wealth moves into a new neighborhood where they have built a large home with a pool...something that isn't seen in this particular neighborhood but Brad Whitman feels that this is the new up and coming location and wants to get in while the price is right. The presence of the Whitman family if met with mixed emotions, but their immediate neighbor Valerie, and her son Xavier, have had an issue with the fact that they have infringed on the large oak tree in the backyard (well, Valerie mostly).

Is this your standard white vs black book? Not necessarily. Valerie was married to a white man and that is Xavier's father. He is dead and his family had bigotry for sure, and some people just didn't seem to care one way or another. So, does Valerie have bias? Maybe. What about the Whitman's? Are they against blacks? The first thing Brad insinuates is that Xavier is a worker for the landscaping, instead of thinking he could be the neighbor. Does that make him a bigot? I'll leave that for you to decide.

The story centers mainly around Juniper and Xavier - the two teens that are drawn to each other, even though Juniper has taken a purity vow, something that makes her mother Julia and step-dad Brad beyond thrilled. One less thing they have to worry about. But, Juniper feels differently when she is around Xavier, and a relationship unfolds. 

This is where things take a turn. About halfway through the book I was unable to put it down. The lawsuit fuels something that can't be slowed, and the book races to a shocking I didn't see coming. 

Overall a good read and one I would tell you to hang in there on. Was it earth shattering? No, just a solid book with a good plot and well rounded characters, and one that tackles racial problems as they still exist today. 

Therese Anne Fowler (pronounced ta-reece) 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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