In Oak Knoll, a tight-knit North Carolina neighbourhood, professor of forestry and ecology Valerie Alston-Holt is raising her bright and talented biracial son. All is well until the Whitmans move in next door – an apparently traditional family with new money, ambition, and a secretly troubled teenage daughter.
With little in common except a property line, these two very different families quickly find themselves at odds over an historic oak tree in Valerie’s yard.
But as they fight, they fail to notice that there is a romance blossoming between their two teenagers. A romance that will challenge the carefully constructed concepts of class and race in this small community. A romance that might cause everything to shatter…
A Good Neighbourhood was one of my most anticipated reads of this year, I squealed in delight when the legend that is Louise Swannell from Headlinepg sent me a glorious proof. All my thanks goes there. This mind absorbing read is available to pre-order now from here, for its hardback release on the 10th of March. It will also be available in audible and e-book format on this date.
“We declare our right on this earth to be a man, to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.” – Malcolm X
Not all great books are devourable in one sitting, The Good Neighbourhood is one of those books. it’s a book that you want to binge like you’ve never binge read before BUT you also want to slowly appreciate the storyline, digesting each chapter as you go. It became a routine to read a chapter and breath, especially as the plotline develops into a read that touches upon the style of Jodi Picoult, in terms of morality and realism of life.
The readers is initially drawn into the lives of two sets of neighbours, both from completely different backgrounds – one of which has completely taken advantage of their white privilege. Valerie is a long term resident of the neighbourhood, who resides with her son Xavier and adores her ancient tree that lives at the bottom of her garden. When the well – off family move into the house which attaches to theirs, Valarie becomes distressed when their building begins to kill her much loved tree. This tree is one of a symbolic nature, I believe, the tree is human kind, whereas the roots symbolise the diversity within one society – the tree’s death feels like the death of unison in mankind, the hatred that has broken down the community and man’s disinterest for his fellow man. This euphemism, I feel echoes the quote shared above from Malcolm X. What doe you think?
A Good Neighbourhood is a powerfully evocative, rage – inducing and thought provoking read, where I found myself completely captivated, the narrative is that of a third person where the reader ‘sees’ all – I think this is a clever way of writing, like a voice over but then also creating an emotionally charged atmosphere. Therese’s spectacular writing showcases her ability to envelope important issues within a blanket of fiction, without lessening the impact it has. The storyline gripped me in a multitude of ways, from the slight glimpses of prejudices that expand to conflicts that bubble under the surface, to the characters, from an overbearing mother, to a highly achieving student. Each family has a teenager, Juniper and Xavier, immediately you feel a Romeo and Juliet feel, like each teenager is expected not to interact with one another due to the worlds of which each belong to. All characters become entwined within each other’s lives, collided in fact. A Good Neighbourhood allows the reader to feel every single emotion that is thrown at them, while also written with such delicacy yet with such passion.
Therese Anne Fowler has written a novel that is a true spotlight on an engrained issue of society, one that reminds the reader that it’s real even if not in your face happening. I’ve given A Good Neighbourhood a full five stars, it’s also one of the first reads that is going straight onto my books of the year 2020 list – this book had be shouting at it, I wanted to throw it across the room, hug it and also scream my frustrations of society. Like the tree at the centre of the story, every single person on this earth deserves to be here – they deserve to exist.
Until next time,