Review: Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan


Rating: 8.25/10

Synopsis

Named by Goodreads as One of the Most Anticipated Mysteries and Thrillers of 2021

“A modern-day Crucible….Beneath the surface of a suburban utopia, madness lurks.” —Liv Constantine, bestselling author of The Last Mrs. Parrish

“A sinkhole opens on Maple Street, and gossip turns the suburban utopia toxic. A taut teachable moment about neighbors turning on neighbors.” —People

“One of the creepiest, most unnerving deconstructions of American suburbia I’ve ever read. Langan cuts to the heart of upper middle class lives like a skilled surgeon.” —NPR

​Celeste Ng’s enthralling dissection of suburbia meets Shirley Jackson’s creeping dread in this propulsive literary noir, when a sudden tragedy exposes the depths of deception and damage in a Long Island suburb—pitting neighbor against neighbor and putting one family in terrible danger.

Welcome to Maple Street, a picture-perfect slice of suburban Long Island, its residents bound by their children, their work, and their illusion of safety in a rapidly changing world.

But menace skulks beneath the surface of this exclusive enclave, making its residents prone to outrage. When the Wilde family moves in, they trigger their neighbors’ worst fears. Dad Arlo’s a gruff has-been rock star with track marks. Mom Gertie’s got a thick Brooklyn accent, with high heels and tube tops to match. Their weird kids cuss like sailors. They don’t fit with the way Maple Street sees itself.

Though Maple Street’s Queen Bee, Rhea Schroeder—a lonely college professor repressing a dark past—welcomed Gertie and her family at first, relations went south during one spritzer-fueled summer evening, when the new best friends shared too much, too soon. By the time the story opens, the Wildes are outcasts.

As tensions mount, a sinkhole opens in a nearby park, and Rhea’s daughter Shelly falls inside. The search for Shelly brings a shocking accusation against the Wildes. Suddenly, it is one mom’s word against the other’s in a court of public opinion that can end only in blood.

A riveting and ruthless portrayal of American suburbia, Good Neighbors excavates the perils and betrayals of motherhood and friendships and the dangerous clash between social hierarchy, childhood trauma, and fear.

Review

Thanks to the publisher, author, and narrator for a listening copy of Good Neighbors for review consideration. This did not influence my thoughts or opinions.

Good Neighbors is a strong, character-driven story about a tight-knit community that quickly unravels as drama and hysteria oozes into its foundation. Once the sinkhole opens up, everything is off the table, pitting neighbor against neighbor and putting “he said, she said” into full effect. This is a novel that gives a fresh definition to “frenemies”.

I hadn’t heard about Langan’s newest novel until I saw it popping up on social media feeds all over the place. Several authors that I follow began posting about, reading, and reviewing it in quick succession so I figured I’d give it a go as well.

Boy, am I glad I did.

Langan does a phenomenal job bringing the reader into the Maple Street community, giving you a reason to care about its residents, and then completely flipping the script. Past traumas lash out in the form of insane and unfounded accusations, complete disregard for the emotional well-being of others, and even intense violence. All of these things are felt by the reader, almost like a weight that needs to be shed. I still feel myself reeling after finishing the last page because, while it is pure fiction, it definitely carries a bit of truth. People are freaking crazy once you peel the layers back.

The spiral into madness aside, I enjoyed how the author included headlines, newspaper clippings, and articles into the story; some taken in the present and others from future publications, but all showed the perceived/real biases that local news and beyond have had for decades (now just in fictional form). They added a very interesting dynamic to the narrative that I hope to see more of.

This is a heck of a timely novel as I start my 2nd year as Board President for my Homeowner’s Association :’D. I can DEFINITELY understand how relationships with those in your community can change like the flick of a switch. Though I don’t know if they’d get to this level… maybe.

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