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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  • First Published:
    Feb 2020, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2021, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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Now Xavier said to her, "The time has come."

"What time is that? Are you going somewhere?" She laid the flowers and clippers in her basket and then stood upright. "I thought you were going to clear out those dead leaves for me."

"I am. We have new neighbors."

"Oh, that. I know. It was inevitable. Like death," Valerie added with a rueful smile.

Xavier said, "I met one of them just now. She says it's her and one sister and their parents."

"Only four people in that huge house?"

Xavier shrugged. "Guess so."

"How old?"

"The girl? My age, I think, give or take. And a little sister, she said. I didn't ask about her."

His mother nodded. "Okay. Thanks for the intel."

"Do you want me to find you if the parents come outside?"

"No. Yes. Of course. I am going to be a good neighbor."

"You always are."

"Thanks, Zay."

"Just telling it like it is."

"That's what we have to do, as much as we can."

Xavier returned to the backyard and got to work raking the leaves from an area where his mother intended to put a koi pond. With him going off to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for school in the fall, she'd said she needed new beings to keep her occupied so that she didn't call him every day to make sure he could survive on the opposite side of the country without her. He knew she was joking; she wouldn't call daily regardless. She'd want to, but she wouldn't. He understood. They'd been a pretty exclusive duo for a long time.

He'd said, "Make the pond, and maybe date someone local."

"Oh, look who's talking about dating."

He gave her that crooked smile of his that had made him so popular with all the older ladies here in Oak Knoll, as well as with, we were sure, the girls at his school. He said, "I'm too busy to have a girlfriend."

"Too picky, it seems to me."

"I know you are, but what am I?" he said.

The fact is, Xavier was both picky and busy—but mostly picky. He hadn't met anyone who made him feel like he ought to change any of his priorities. He had plenty of female friends and, among them, girls who would have dated him if he'd pursued their interest. He hadn't pursued it, though, because he knew himself well enough to understand he was an all-or-nothing kind of guy. Always had been. He'd hooked up with a couple of girls in the past year mainly due to lust and opportunity, but a relationship was not workable for him right now. His music was his love.

Now he glanced at the poolside girl, the new neighbor, the girl he'd sort of met. What's her name? he thought. Why do you care? he also thought. Just do your work.

Xavier had been six years old when he first strummed a guitar, at a birthday party for the daughter of one of his mom's colleagues. Several of the adults had brought instruments—guitars, mandolins, bongos, a harmonica—and after the cake and presents, everyone gathered on the uneven brick patio in plastic lawn chairs to play and sing. First it was Raffi songs, for the kids, then a lot of Neil Young and the Beatles and some James Taylor. Xavier thought the music was fine, but it was one particular guitar that snagged his curiosity. He liked the look of it, and its clear, bright tone. He'd asked its owner, a history professor named Sean, if he could try it. Sean sat him down and put the guitar on Xavier's lap. The instrument was huge in comparison to the boy's skinny little self. Xavier held the neck and reached over the top and strummed, and that was it, he was gone. A week later he took his first lesson. By ten, he was fixed on classical music exclusively; of all the genres, classical was the one that made him feel beauty, and he needed that feeling to help him get through all the emotional noise in his world. Then early this year, now eighteen years old, he'd auditioned for a coveted spot at SFCM and got it.

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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