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Summary and book reviews of A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler

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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  • Published:
    Feb 2020, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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About this Book

Book Summary

A gripping contemporary novel that examines the American dream through the lens of two families living side by side in an idyllic neighborhood, over the course of one summer that changes their lives irrevocably, from the New York Times bestselling author of Z and A Well-Behaved Woman.

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?

But 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 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.

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 ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

A Good Neighborhood is an up-to-the-minute story packed with complex issues including celebrity culture, casual racism, sexual exploitation and environmental degradation. Fowler may not be subtle with her message, but everything that happens is realistic in the context of recent American history, and she's right to imply that the post-racial society we might like to think we live in is still mostly a myth...continued

Full Review (744 words).

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(Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The plot is skillfully executed, delving into each character's complexities fully enough that their choices make perfect sense. This page-turner delivers a thoughtful exploration of prejudice, preconceived notions, and what it means to be innocent in the age of an opportunistic media.

Booklist
A rippling story for fans of suspenseful domestic dramas

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Fowler empathetically conjures nuanced characters we won't soon forget, expertly weaves together their stories, and imbues the plot with a sense of inevitability and urgency...Traversing topics of love, race, and class, this emotionally complex novel speaks to—and may reverberate beyond—our troubled times.

Library Journal (starred review)
Fowler skillfully renders her characters and their experiences into an unforgettable, heartbreaking story.

Author Blurb Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of Small Great Things and A Spark of Light
Therese Anne Fowler has taken the ingredients of racism, justice, and conservative religion and has concocted a feast of a read: compelling, heartbreaking, and inevitable. I finished A Good Neighborhood in a single sitting. Yes, it's that good.

Reader Reviews

Helene M.

Characters Make the Book
Because of my work in a local bookstore, I was fortunate to receive an advanced copy of Therese Anne Fowler's newest book. Fowler has done wonderful work in drawing characters one can care about, or despise, or for whom one can wish redemption - just...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Tree Law in the United States

Neighborhood with Trees from Above In Therese Anne Fowler's A Good Neighborhood, a lawsuit over a tree precipitates a series of tragic events. It is not uncommon for a tree to be the basis of a dispute between neighbors. Fallen trees or branches often affect neighbors, but remain the responsibility of the person whose property contains the tree's trunk. If the trunk is on the line between two properties, though, it is considered a "boundary tree" and both parties share responsibility for it.

Tree law, which in the U.S. is set at the state or local level, addresses questions such as how many trees someone can plant, what regulations there are on the cutting down of trees, whether a tree is actually on government-owned land and so on. Other issues that might be brought to...

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