A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler: A Review

A highlighted quote amidst a sea of books grabbed my attention at Book Expo. It read

Later this summer when the funeral takes place, the media will speculate boldly on who’s to blame. They’ll challenge attendees to say on camera whose side they’re on. For the record: we never wanted to take sides.

I was immediately drawn in by the jacket’s portrayal of the story as a modern-day Shakespearean tragedy.

The plot of A Good Neighborhood starts out simply enough: a newly well-off white family named the Whitmans is moving to Oak Knoll, a suburban neighborhood in North Carolina. In order to have the top-of-the-line home Mr. and Mrs. Whitman dreamed of for their two daughters, they had it built from scratch. Most of the neighbors are relieved that the construction is now over and they are ready to admire how the other half lives. Valerie Alston-Holt, however, is worried that the construction has done irreparable harm to a historic oak tree in her yard.


Valerie is a college professor of forestry and ecology and a single mother to a gifted son who just graduated high school. She is black and her son is biracial. The Whitmans and Valerie have very little in common except that they are both raising teenagers and they share a property line. Their dispute over negligence during construction soon balloons into a bitter legal battle. All the while, a star-crossed romance blooms between Valerie’s son, Xavier, and Mrs. Whitman’s daughter, Juniper. It turns out Juniper is Mr. Whitman’s stepdaughter, a distinction that proves very important to the way events unfold.

From the beginning I felt a sense of foreboding, and that ominous feeling grew throughout the novel. The author built the tension expertly with the effect of me both wanting desperately to know what happens next and also wishing to remain blissfully ignorant so that the characters would remain happy a little longer. In this respect, reading this story felt like my second and subsequent readings of To Kill a Mockingbird. I got caught up with the characters and their hope that truth and justice will prevail, all the while knowing it won’t. A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler is a “gut punch” in the best way and I won’t be forgetting it anytime soon.

The novel set for release February 2020 but you can get on the holds list now!

Happy Reading,

– Stephanie, WFPL Reference Librarian

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