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.
... the ending feels painfully inevitable. Attempting to hit the sweet spot between Celeste Ng and Emily Giffin, sprinkling in some Liane Moriarty-esque chorus narration, Therese Anne Fowler crafts a readable saga nodding toward a bevy of social issues. But the lack of originality is glaring, its assembly of elements intended to attract readers of suburban fiction adding nothing new to the canon.
... shares some surface-level similarities with controversial books written by white authors about people of color, addressing subjects that disproportionately affect and traumatize people of color. These similarities include a sizable advance, the use of a sensitivity reader and a robust promotional effort by the publisher ... Execution, however, does matter. And what Fowler has executed is a book in which the black characters are thoughtfully rendered and essential to the story being told. Valerie and Xavier’s perspectives enrich and complicate a larger narrative about prejudice and how it can infiltrate even the most neighborly and seemingly open-minded of communities ... Despite these strengths, though, the pacing in the first two-thirds of the novel, sometimes idles amid a high volume of backstory and flashbacks ... Whatever the motivation or goal, the effort occasionally feels overdone. It also strings out the novel’s tension and prompts the need to manufacture intrigue in artificial ways.
A Good Neighborhood is neither a police procedural nor a legal thriller. It’s more of a cautionary tale of tragedy foretold ... The novel wants to be about the explosive clash between class and race. But it is more about navigating a faulty criminal-justice system A Good Neighborhood is noteworthy but flawed. It attempts to deal with the hot-button issues of these divided times in hopes of finding ecological and social harmony. It might have been a stronger novel if that fence had been built at the beginning. The healing could have started then ... Instead, to turn another Shakespearean phrase, for want of a tree a life is lost. Manipulating characters to serve a tired plot (with forced literary references) does little to provide the catharsis promised by the story’s opening chorus.
Everyone has heard this story before, at least the broad strokes of it, and this is itself the queasy moral. The horror that Fowler renders in these pages is threaded through with an inevitability that is, perhaps, the most wrenching thing of all. A Good Neighborhood is a page-turner, but there is no joy in the turning.
A riveting, potentially redemptive story of modern American suburbia that reads almost like an ancient Greek tragedy ... As the novel builds toward its devastating climax, it nimbly negotiates issues of race and racism, class and gentrification, sex and sexual violence, environmental destruction and other highly charged topics. Fowler...empathetically conjures nuanced characters we won’t soon forget, expertly weaves together their stories, and imbues the plot with a sense of inevitability and urgency. In the end, she offers an opportunity for catharsis as well as a heartfelt, hopeful call to action. Traversing topics of love, race, and class, this emotionally complex novel speaks to—and may reverberate beyond—our troubled times.
...fascinating ... The plot is skillfully executed, delving into each character’s complexities fully enough that their choices make perfect sense. This page-turner delivers a thoughtful exploration of prejudice, preconceived notions, and what it means to be innocent in the age of an opportunistic media.