I received this book for free from the TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Good Neighbors by Joanne Serling
Published by Twelve on February 6, 2018
Genres: Adoption, Adult, Contemporary, Contemporary, Family, Friendship, Parents, Siblings
Source: TLC Book Tours
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A searing portrait of suburbia, friendship, and family strained by a devotion to false appearances.
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 haven’t been captivated by a story like this in so long. The tension, the complexity, the obsession over status; how one hopes to be seen by others versus how one fears one is seen…GOOD NEIGHBORS is a stunning, shocking, entertaining, and thought-provoking look at humanity. I want everyone to read this book.”? Julia Fierro, author of The Gypsy Moth Mother and Cutting Teeth
“Riveting…GOOD NEIGHBORS exposes the dark underbelly of seemingly perfect families and friendships in this compulsively paced suburban thriller.”? Bethany Ball, author of What To Do About The Solomons
In Joanne Serling’s debut novel, Good Neighbors, four suburban families strive to put up a perfect front for each other, all while hiding secrets that could shatter this perfect image. Told from the point of view of Nicole, a stay-at-home mother to two grade-school-aged boys and wife to a perfectionist husband, the seemingly tight knit group of families’ world starts to unravel when one couple adopts a young girl from Russia.
The neighbors are all quite different, with Nicole and her husband living quite traditional lives. Corporate recruiter/divorcee Lorraine with two children make up a family while another consists of successful attorney Nela and her stay-at-home husband Drew along with their speech-delayed son. The very well-off Paige and Gene Edwards decide that they want to expand their family by adopting a foreign girl that doesn’t quite fit in with their expectations or lifestyle. The families are supportive of this at first, but soon they become suspicious that Winnie is the victim of abuse by the family, and the rumor mill abounds viciously for most of the novel.
Covering a two-year period, we see the holidays celebrated, the vacations taken together. There’s always something a little bit off with how Paige treats Winnie, and Winnie herself seems to be special needs–and that’s so much more than the Edwards’ signed on for. Nicole tries to keep her family clean and fed with little help from husband Jay, all while fielding guilt-inducing phone calls from her sister and mother. She’s far from a perfect mother, but she’s trying her best–all while presenting a put together front to the neighbors. You never get to delve too deeply into the husbands since Nicole doesn’t seem to really want to befriend them that much, but the complicated relationship between the women is like high school relationships: showing off for your “friends” while talking behind their backs–in this case while hosting dinner parties and driving the carpool.
I give Good Neighbors a 3.5 out of five. While I loved the dynamics of the uneasy friendships formed between the families more out of convenience than anything, we rarely see more of these people than the limited scope that narrator Nicole observes. It’s true that’s how we all see things in our lives, not knowing what’s really going on behind closed doors and in the minds of our so-called friends, but I think I would have liked Good Neighbors a more if the characters were a bit deeper. A substantial part of the book deals with Nicole’s relationship with her alcoholic sister and woe-is-me mother, but that plot is never explored very well or even resolved a little bit by book’s end. All in all, this book was enjoyable to read as you watched how long Nicole could stand by and say nothing about the little girl’s treatment.
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About Joanne Serling
Joanne Serling’s fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in New Ohio Review and North American Review. She is a graduate of Cornell University and studied and taught fiction at The Writers Studio in New York City. She lives outside of New York with her husband and children and is at work on her second book.
Connect with Joanne Serling
Joanne Serling’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS for GOOD NEIGHBORS:
Monday, April 9th: @girlsinbooks
Tuesday, April 10th: @ladyofthelibrary
Wednesday, April 11th: @bookpairings
Thursday, April 12th: @bookishconnoisseur
Friday, April 13th: @prose_and_palate
Saturday, April 14th: @hotcocoareads
Sunday, April 15th: @theliteraryllama
Monday, April 16th:@novelmombooks
Tuesday, April 17th: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, April 18th: @readingandranunculus
Thursday, April 19th: 5 Minutes for Books
Friday, April 20th: From the TBR Pile
Monday, April 23rd: Clues and Reviews
Tuesday, April 24th: Bewitched Bookworms
Wednesday, April 25th: Books a la Mode – author guest post
Thursday, April 26th: The Sketchy Reader
Monday, April 30th: Bookchickdi
Tuesday, May 1st: Eliot’s Eats
Wednesday, May 2nd: Novel Gossip
Thursday, May 3rd: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Monday, May 7th: Books & Spoons
Wednesday, May 9th: 100 Pages a Day… Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Thursday, May 10th: Girl Who Reads
TBD: Novel Mom Blog