This post contains affiliate links. What happens when you mix a professor, Valerie, who is passionate about botany with a neighboring savvy businessman who cares only about outward appearances and status symbols? The answer is, nothing good. In A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler, the reader has the opportunity to watch both of these individuals’ lives unravel in less than a year.
About A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler
Valerie Alston-Holt and her biracial son, Xavier, have lived in the Oak Knoll neighborhood for 19 years. Valerie is a respected professor and the hub of the neighborhood. Xavier is a talented musician who is finishing his senior year and has secured a scholarship to a prestigious music school in San Francisco.
Their pleasant life is disrupted when the Whitman family moves in next door. Valerie, before even meeting them, is prejudiced against them because they tore down the little house that had been there. In addition, they ripped up all the trees in the back of the lot and built a house and pool so large that it took up almost all of their lot. Valerie discovers within a few months that their zealous building has scarred and ultimately killed her beloved oak tree.
Brad Whitman owns an HVAC business that has eight locations. He has new money, and he spends it to show off his wealth. His wife, Julia, was “rescued” by him. She was a single mom to Juniper when they met and married. Now, Juniper is a junior, and Brad and Julia share a daughter, Lily, who is still in elementary school.
Things go awry for the two families when Valerie decides to file a lawsuit against both Brad and the developer because of the harm to her oak. She asks for a large sum of money due to the emotional hardship of the loss of her beloved oak tree. Though everyone around her tries to convince her not to sue, she can’t be swayed. Meanwhile, Xavier and Juniper have begun a secret relationship.
What happens next is a real page turner, but don’t be surprised if you’re displeased with the ending, as I was.
I really enjoyed this book. In some reviews I read people complained about the slow opening. However, I found the book engaging from the get go. I also strangely enjoyed the outside narrator. The narrator is an Oak Knoll resident talking about what he or she sees. The reader never finds out who the narrator is. It reminds me of the style of writing of “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner.
Sometimes I found Xavier a little too good to be true, but I suppose there are some teenagers like him who are mature for their age. I also found Brad unbelievably creepy.
While I hated the end of the book, I could see how that might be a likely conclusion to the events in the story. In the age of Black Lives Matter, this book is an excellent illustration that white men with money and power can control events that are far from fair.
I give A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler 5 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.