The contemporary novel “A Good Neighborhood,” by Therese Anne Flowler, is a saga of domestic drama. It’s about two very different families living next door to each other The book touches on class, race, teen love and the environment.
Valerie Alston-Holt is a longtime resident of the small suburban town of Oak Knoll, N.C., a close-knit community. She is a professor of forestry and ecology at the local university, a widow raising her bright, musically talented biracial son, Xavier.
Brad Whitman is a self-made successful HVAC businessman. He is a bit of a celebrity in the small town due to his appearing in television commercials. Brad and his family have just built a mansion on the property adjacent to Valerie’s.
Things are going well until the historic 100-year old oak tree in Valerie’s yard shows signs of distress. Valerie being an environmentalist/ecologist is distraught. She sues Brad and the construction company he used for damaging the tree’s root system, thus causing its decline. Brad is furious.
Meanwhile Brad’s step-daughter, Juniper, and Valerie’s son Xavier are falling in love. Juniper and Xavier are model students with bright futures and are keeping their relationship a secret.
The story is narrated by a collective “we,” comprised of others in the neighborhood who are watching and providing their viewpoints about the neighbors who are at odds with each other, and the tragic turn their resentment takes. This multi-person narration helps you get to know all of the characters and to understand the choices they make. More importantly it makes you realize how important it is to consider how your actions may affect others.
“The Good Neighbor” is a tragic story that will leave you thinking about what happened in the book long after you’ve finished. It’s a fast read with great characters and dialogue .