Good Neighborhood
by Fowler, Therese Anne

"A gripping contemporary novel that examines the American dream through the lens of two families living side by side in an idyllic neighborhood, and the one summer that changes their lives irrevocably"-

THERESE ANNE FOWLER is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald and A Well-Behaved Woman. Raised in the Midwest, she moved to North Carolina in 1995. She holds a BA in sociology/cultural anthropology and an MFA in creative writing from North Carolina State University.

The first page in Fowler's (A Well-Behaved Woman, 2018) third novel, her first set in the present, lets readers know that there will be a funeral; they'll wonder whose it might be right up to the book's final pages. With his wife and two daughters, local HVAC celebrity Brad Whitman moves into his new dream house on the lot behind Valerie Alston-Holt's property, where she lives with her son, Xavier, in charming Oak Knoll, North Carolina. When it's clear that the Alston-Holts' beloved, centuries-old oak tree is suffering because of the Whitmans' construction, ecology professor Valerie, who is Black, takes action that prompts Brad, who is white, to reveal his true colors in a spiral of devastation. This is hardly an easy setup for the budding romance between teens Xavier and Juniper Whitman, which was already complicated by the purity promise Juniper's parents encouraged her to take. Narrated by the neighborhood, a diverse, collective we that sometimes interrupt their storytelling to reflect on all they knew and didn't know, this is a rippling story for fans of suspenseful domestic dramas. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

A riveting, potentially redemptive story of modern American suburbia that reads almost like an ancient Greek tragedy. When the Whitmans, a nouveau riche white family, move into a sprawling, newly built house next door to Valerie Alston-Holt, a black professor of forestry and ecology, and her musically gifted, biracial 18-year-old son, Xavier, in a modest, diverse North Carolina neighborhood of cozy ranch houses on wooded lots, it is clear from the outset things will not end well. The neighborhood itself, which serves as the novel's narrator and chorus, tells us so. The story begins on "a Sunday afternoon in May when our neighborhood is still maintaining its tenuous peace, a loose balance between old and new, us and them," we are informed in the book's opening paragraph. "Later this summer when the funeral takes place, the media will speculate boldly on who's to blame." The exact nature of the tragedy that has been foretold and questions of blame come into focus gradually as a series of events is set inexorably in motion when the Whitmans' cloistered 17-year-old daughter, Juniper, encounters Xavier. The two teenagers tumble into a furtive, pure-hearted romance even as Xavier's mom and Juniper's stepfather, Brad, a slick operator who runs a successful HVAC business and has secrets of his own, lock horns in a legal battle over a dying tree. As the novel builds toward its devastating climax, it nimbly negotiates issues of race and racism, class and gentrification, sex and sexual violence, environmental destruction and other highly charged topics. Fowler (A Well-Behaved Woman, 2018, etc.) 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. In the end, she offers an opportunity for catharsis as well as a heartfelt, hopeful call to action. Traversing topics of love, race, and class, this emotionally complex novel speaks to—and may reverberate beyond—our troubled times. Copyright Kirkus 2019 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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