Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Eight novels about dealing with difficult neighbors

Chris Cander is the USA Today bestselling author of The Weight of a Piano, which was named an Indie Next Great Read in both hardcover and paperback and which the New York Times called, “immense, intense and imaginative,” Whisper Hollow, also named an Indie Next Great Read, and 11 Stories, named by Kirkus as one of the best books of 2013 and winner of the Independent Publisher Book Awards for fiction. She also wrote the children’s picture book The Word Burglar, and the Audible Originals “Eddies” and “Grieving Conversations.” Her new novel is A Gracious Neighbor.

[My Book, The Movie: The Weight of a Piano.]

At Electric Lit Cander tagged eight novels about the drama of living in a neighborhood, including:
Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan

I was hooked on page one by the description of the aptly-named Wilde family: Gertie, a living Barbie doll with uncool “mom-cleavage,” hot-tempered Arlo who smokes Parliaments on the front porch, and their weird kids, Julia and Larry, who cuss and fart in public. When they move into a fixer-upper on uptight, tight-knit Maple Street in Long Island, their presence begins to erode their neighbors’ fragile illusions of safety and peace in a newly unstable world. A sinkhole—both actual and metaphorical—opens up in a park during a neighborhood party that the Wildes weren’t invited to but attended anyway. This “hungry” cavern consumes a child, and with her goes the civility that had been a feature of the enclave. Suddenly, the street is awash in malicious, infectious gossip that turns neighbors against one another and propels the narrative through mob mentality, social pressure, climate crises, and the perils of American suburbia to its dramatic conclusion.

This literary thriller was riveting and unsettling in the best possible way, and I love that, like me, Langan chose to set her story in her own neighborhood. To do so is risky, because some residents of any real community would be offended by anything less than a best places to live ranking in a magazine. (One outraged reviewer said, “I am shocked by the heinous treatment this author gave to the town.”) Sorry, neighbors: writing about a profoundly familiar place is a great way to excavate the deepest truths about the imaginary people who live there.
Read about another entry on the list.

Good Neighbors is among Amelia Kahaney's six top coming-of-age mysteries & thrillers.

The Page 69 Test: Good Neighbors.

My Book, The Movie: Good Neighbors.

--Marshal Zeringue