Published by Twelve ISBN 9781455541898
Trade paperback $13.99, 256 pages
Joanne Serling's novel Neighbors is set in a leafy suburb of Boston, where we meet four families, all in their forties. Their kids play together, they share dinners and parties and gossip and friendship.
The story is told through the point of view of Nicole, who is married to Jay, a man who loves to talk about the looming economic doom facing the world. Nela works long hours as a corporate attorney while her husband Drew, who owns a baseball card store, handles most of the socializing. Lorraine is a divorced mom of two, who dresses impeccably, loves tennis and likes to boss everyone around. She always knows the scoop.
Paige is unpredictable. She likes to run all the gatherings, has a spectacular home, and at a Leftovers Day celebration after Thanksgiving, announces that she and her husband Gene are adopting a four year-old Russian girl. Everyone is surprised, but happy for them.
When Paige and Gene bring Winnie home after a month in Russia, Nicole, Nela and Lorraine stop by their house bearing gifts. Winnie is a lovely, shy little girl, but when they arrive home, Paige seems very uptight. She has a lot of rules for interactions with little Winnie- don't say "real parents", say "biological parents". Don't say that Winnie was "given away". Don't talk about her lazy eye.
Nicole is delighted to meet Winnie, but soon it becomes apparent that there are problems. Paige tells odd tales of their time in Russia. She is short-tempered with Winnie, screaming at her for small things, correcting her behavior rudely in front of everyone.
Gene takes time off from work to spend time with Winnie, whom he clearly adores. But things go downhill quickly. Paige interacts less and less with Winnie, spending more time at yoga or shopping. She doesn't bring Winnie to the neighborhood gatherings, then fires her longtime nanny.
Soon Paige stops interacting with her friends. She locks herself and Winnie up in the house and refuses to speak to anyone. Nicole, Lorraine and Nela become worried for Winnie and Paige.
Since the story is told from Nicole's point of view, we also get a glimpse of Nicole's dysfunctional family. Her sister Penny is an alcoholic, and she calls Nicole crying about her life and asking for money. Nicole's mother calls and complains about Penny, and berates Nicole for not being a better daughter.
I found Nicole's family story very compelling, and wished there had been more about it. Nicole feels guilty for not being there for her mother and sister, but what she is doing is not helping their situation either.
Fans of Lianne Moriarty's Big Little Lies will enjoy Good Neighbors. Reading it made me feel like I was in the neighborhood, peeking out of my curtains watching this group of friends try to figure out what is happening to their friend.
Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Joanne Serling's tour. The rest of her stops are here:
Tuesday, April 17th: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, April 18th: @readingandranunculus
Thursday, April 19th: 5 Minutes for Books
Friday, April 20th: From the TBR Pile
Monday, April 23rd: Clues and Reviews
Tuesday, April 24th: Bewitched Bookworms
Wednesday, April 25th: Books a la Mode – author guest post
Thursday, April 26th: The Sketchy Reader
Monday, April 30th: Bookchickdi
Tuesday, May 1st: Eliot’s Eats
Wednesday, May 2nd: Novel Gossip
Thursday, May 3rd: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Monday, May 7th: Books & Spoons
Wednesday, May 9th: 100 Pages a Day… Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Thursday, May 10th: Girl Who Reads