Today’s Maximum Shelf pick is Therese Anne Fowler’s exploration of class, race, and heartrending star-crossed love, A GOOD NEIGHBORHOOD.
For fans of Celeste Ng and Jodi Picoult comes a stunning page-turner about two very different families living side by side in an idyllic neighborhood–and the summer that changes their lives forever.
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.
“Fowler is primarily interested in telling a story about modern families, love and tragedy. To do so in a contemporary American setting, however, is to reckon with the forces that divide us. By setting her story in a ‘good neighborhood,’ we see how even America’s best intentions fall short. As a country and as human beings, we like to pretend that the past is the past, but deep wounds don’t erase themselves, not after years or many decades. A GOOD NEIGHBORHOOD shows how even something as pure as young love can lead to calamity in a fractured society.”–Shelf Awareness