A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler
I don’t suggest a book without feeling it is 100% worth the read; I suggest A Good Neighborhood. There are some caveats…and those caveats make this a good selection for a book group or to read and then lend to someone else in your quarantine circle.
A Good Neighborhood is the story of two families in a North Carolina neighborhood in the process of gentrification. Family one, consists of a widowed mother and her teenage son, both of color, both with one white parent and one parent of color. Valerie is a professor and stringent environmentalist; her son Xavier is a very talented classical guitarist with a scholarship to continue his music in college. Family two is a white, high school educated nouveau riche couple, Brad and Julia with two daughters: Juniper is Julia’s from a previous relationship, Lily is the couple’s. Their priority for the daughters is a purity pledge over college education and independence. Brad bought the plot behind Valerie’s home, razed the existing house and clear cut the lot, and built an enormous “showplace” house and pool. One side effect of their beautiful new home is the harm done to the giant oak tree next door. There is some polite tension, followed by a lawsuit, and things start to get ugly. Meanwhile the two older teens begin secretly dating.
A Good Neighborhood is billed as an important novel for today’s times. How do you remain or become a good neighbor when you disagree? How do class, racism, activism, systemic oppression and even young love affect what being a good neighbor means? These are great questions to explore, and probably even more important with most of the world living and working from home these days. I wonder if the characters are too trite and the conflicts too textbook to seem realistic. At the same time, using the extreme archetype is an effective way to address the issues at hand in the novel.
I can’t wait for you to read this book and tell me what you think!