Good Neighbors by Joanne Serling
Published by Twelve on February 6, 2018 (expected)
Genre(s): fiction, contemporary
Format & Pages: paperback, 248
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In an idyllic suburb, four young families quickly form a neighborhood clique, their friendships based on little more than the ages of their children and a shared sense of camaraderie. When one of the couples, Paige and Gene Edwards, adopt a four-year-old girl from Russia, the group’s loyalty and morality is soon called into question. Are the Edwards unkind to their new daughter? Or is she a difficult child with hidden destructive tendencies?
As the seams of the group friendship slowly unravel, neighbor Nicole Westerhof finds herself drawn further into the life of the adopted girl, forcing Nicole to re-examine the deceptive nature of her own family ties, and her complicity in the events unfolding around her.
I had fairly high hopes for Good Neighbors as the blurb piqued my interest with its Liane Moriarty vibes. In the end, though, I had very mixed feelings about this book.
From the beginning, the set up for Good Neighbors was such that I was able to jump right in and engage with it. With a main character named Nicole who lives in a suburb called Fair Lawn (ironically there is a town named Fair Lawn not far from where I live), this novel follows her life and relationships with both her family and the friends who live in her neighborhood. Exploring relevant and compelling themes of family, friendship, and community, along with the exploration of secrets, lies, half-truths and communication (or lack thereof), this seemed right up my alley.
Unfortunately, this just didn’t come together for me. Although I enjoyed seeing Nicole’s character arc and growth, many of the themes explored weren’t as fleshed out as I would have liked. Additionally, the writing style included a number of short, incomplete sentence fragments. Sometimes this can be used to great effect, but there were simply so many here that it distanced me from the story as I attempted to fill in the gaps. And the end left several plot strands hanging, which is decidedly more realistic than your typical happily ever after, but I just wanted a little more to feel like the story was complete.
Ultimately, I found it difficult to immerse myself in Good Neighbors and it didn’t quite live up to its potential.
*Many thanks to Twelve Books for providing an advance copy of this edition in exchange for an honest review.