In the same way that activism cannot be sold for $26, black characters cannot be bought when they lack depth and accessibility ... If you want to know how to feel about these characters, the novel will tell you ... Fowler’s portrayal of white supremacy is similarly hampered ... Racism is depicted much like death or pregnancy, in that it is an all-or-nothing, binary state of being ... This binary may make sense in the comforting world of A Good Neighborhood but it reveals little about the world we live in, where good intentions often nourish white supremacy, the way sugar feeds yeast ... a pitch-perfect example of how literary endeavors of allyship — not to be confused with indictments of systemic oppression — can limit a novel’s understanding of human behavior. It provides the same frustration one feels at Thanksgiving, when your self-described open-minded aunt won’t shut up about the beautiful gay couple she waves to at the gym. Is it possible to enjoy a work of art with bad politics? Absolutely. I’ve seen “Pretty Woman” nine times, minimum. But when a story is presented as art and activism, it becomes the reader’s responsibility to take the novel at its repetitive word. Here, in this good neighborhood, it is not a tragedy that violence happens to black men, but rather, that it can happen to one of the good ones. If America is a house on fire, A Good Neighborhood is mostly concerned with exiting quietly, in a single-file line.
In a departure from her best-selling historical fiction...Fowler writes a searing story of a neighborhood in present-day America, shining a spotlight on the effects of class and race as two families collide in a small, gentrifying community ... Fowler skillfully renders her characters and their experiences into an unforgettable, heartbreaking story. Great for book clubs and fans of Tayari Jones and Jodi Picoult.
Throughout, a chorus of neighbors intrudes to speculate and offer background information, an intriguing mix of omniscient narration and gossipy lamentation. Although the transitions between the chorus and the other perspectives aren’t always seamless, this structure adds depth to the sense of Shakespearean tragedy ... fast-paced and thoughtful.