MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Excerpt from A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Good Neighborhood

by Therese Anne Fowler

A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler X
A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler
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    Feb 2020, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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1

An upscale new house in a simple old neighborhood. A girl on a chaise beside a swimming pool, who wants to be left alone. We begin our story here, in the minutes before the small event that will change everything. A Sunday afternoon in May when our neighborhood is still maintaining its tenuous peace, a loose balance between old and new, us and them. Later this summer when the funeral takes place, the media will speculate boldly about who's to blame. They'll challenge attendees to say on-camera whose side they're on.

For the record: we never wanted to take sides.

* * *

Juniper Whitman, the poolside girl, was seventeen. A difficult age, no question, even if you have everything going for you—which it seemed to us she did. It's trite to say appearances can be deceiving, so we won't say that. We'll say no one can be known by only what's visible. We'll say 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. Juniper was hiding something, and she didn't know whether to be ashamed or angry or just exactly what.

This new home's yard was much smaller than Juniper's old one—not even a third of an acre, when before she'd had three. Where was she supposed to go when she needed to get away but wasn't allowed to leave? There was hardly any space here that was not taken up by the house and the pool, and what space there was had no cover. There was no privacy at all. At her previous address, Juniper had liked to sit among the tall longleaf pines at the back of the property, far enough from the house that she felt like she could breathe and think. She liked to be amid the biota, as the scientists call it. It made her feel better. Always had.

But the builder of this big, gleaming white house had cleared the lot of the stately hardwoods that shaded the little house that had been here, the house that had been demolished without ceremony and removed like so much storm or earthquake debris. Except there had been no storm, no earthquake. There was just this desirable neighborhood in the middle of a desirable North Carolina city, and buyers with ready money to spend. Just that, and now this great big house with its small but expensive naked yard and its pool and its chaise and its girl and her book.

Juniper thought the rustling noises she heard in the yard behind hers, a yard that still contained a small forest of dogwood, hickory, pecan, chestnut, pine, and a tremendous oak that had been there for longer than anyone in the neighborhood had been alive, came from squirrels. She wasn't fond of squirrels. They were cute, sure, but you couldn't trust them not to run straight under the wheels of your car when they saw you coming. And they were forever getting into people's bird feeders and stealing all the seed. Juniper had a novel in her lap and steered her attention back to that. The story was good, and she'd become skillful at escaping into stories.

"Hey," said a voice that was not a squirrel's. Juniper looked up, saw a teenage boy standing at the edge of her backyard with a rake in one hand, the other hand raised in greeting. He said, "You must be our new neighbor. I'm about to clear out some leaves and saw you there, so, you know, I figured I'd say hey."

His appearance was a surprise in two ways. Juniper hadn't known anyone was nearby, so there was that. But even if she had suspected there was a person, a boy, a teen like herself, she would have expected him to look like her—that is, white. Everyone in her old neighborhood was white. Instead, he was black, she was pretty sure. Light-skinned, with corkscrew hair the darkest possible shade of gold.

"Hey," she said. "Yeah. We moved in yesterday—my little sister and my parents and me."

"You all from out of town?"

Excerpted from A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler. Copyright © 2020 by Therese Anne Fowler. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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