I am normally a heavy library user, but I recently joined Book of the Month Club. And while justifying the cost, I jokingly promised to send my husband a book report on all of the books that I purchase through BOTM.
I selected two books for June, “A Burning” and “A Good Neighborhood.” I haven’t had a chance to read “A Burning” yet, but I recently finished “A Good Neighborhood.” It is Therese Fowler’s 6th novel. Prior to it’s release she had most recently published “A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts” (this is next on my TBR pile) and is most well-known for “Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald” which was adapted for television.
“A Good Neighborhood” received a lot of good press in advance of its March release. And given the national conversations about race, I expect it will continue to be buzzy. Told from a variety of perspectives, the book follows the lives of two teens–one black and one white and their respective parents whose yards abut one another. As the teens relationship blossoms the parents relationship wither; lawsuits, love, and tragedy. The book speaks to race, class, and the prejudices that accompany both.
Although the teens are at the heart of this story, the parents actions and inaction push the needle. Would things have been different had Valerie intervened when she saw Juniper and Zay together or if she had never pursued the lawsuit? If Brad wasn’t so disillusioned about Juniper, would he have gotten the police involved? Should Julia have known? Should she have acted sooner. None are innocent–they all bear some blame.
The book is a literary reminder that racism is real and has lasting painful ramifications and that all that glitters is not gold. People are not always as they seem. The story is raw, and frankly, difficult to read.
Immediately prior to picking up this book, I read “Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald” and was enthralled. Initially, I found the books to be very different in style, but reflecting back they are more similar than I initially thought. Fowler’s writing propels you into the characters lives–which isn’t always comfortable.
I would give it 3 of 5 starts (for reference, I gave “Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald” 5 stars).
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