“The Family Next Door,” by Sally Hepworth, is the story of four women who live in the suburb of Pleasant Court in Melbourne, Australia. Although they are neighbors they don’t really know each other. The narrative develops as each of the women reveals their struggles and secrets.
Essie is the first character we meet. She is a new mother who secretly suffers from post-partum depression. Three years earlier, Essie left her newborn daughter at the park. When she returned to the park her daughter was there and all was well, but with the birth of her second daughter Essie’s anxiety about how she’ll treat the new baby resurface.
Fran is a successful lawyer on maternity leave after the birth of her second daughter. Fran won’t let her sweet, loving husband near her new child. What Nigel doesn’t know is that Fran had a brief affair while Nigel was struggling through months of depression. Fran is not sure which man is the father of her daughter. She struggles with this secret, not wanting to upset her husband and family life.
Ange strives for perfection. She is in great shape, has a handsome, loving husband, two terrific sons and a successful real estate company, but she is a control freak, needs to be in charge of all aspects of her life including the neighborhood of Pleasant Court. Ange’s husband Lucas had an affair early in their marriage, now Ange suspects that Lucas has a daughter from another affair.
Barbara is Essie’s mother; she lives next door to Essie. Barbara has been the perfect mother to Essie and loving grandmother to Essie’s daughters. She has been there for Essie throughout her post-partum depression and continues to worry about her. But Barbara also has secrets. You get glimpses of the truth in regard to Essie’s birth as the story weaves through Barbara’s memories.
Each of these women struggle with secrets and with the people they love. They lack a real friendship among themselves. Things begin to change when Isabelle Heatherington moves to Pleasant Court. Isabelle doesn’t fit the Pleasant Court mold; she is single, has no children, rents instead of owning her property, and works for an unknown employer. Isabelle has a particular interest in Essie and her family.
This page turning story of motherhood, marriage, post-partum depression and infidelity will have you cheering on the women of Pleasant Court as they change and grow – suffering, confronting, confiding and supporting one another. I could not put this book down.
Sally Hepworth is a “go to” author to seek out – her books engrossing and entertaining.