In the tradition of Zoe Heller’s What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal, The New Neighbor is “a chilling page-turner” (People) with “simple, elegant language” (The New York Times Book Review) about an old woman’s curiosity turned into a dangerous obsession as she becomes involved in her mysterious new neighbor’s complicated life.
How much can you really know about the woman next door?
Ninety-year-old Margaret Riley is content hiding from the world. Stoic and independent, she rarely leaves the Tennessee mountaintop where she lives, finding comfort in the mystery novels that keep her company—until she spots a woman who’s moved into the long-empty house across the pond.
Her neighbor, Jennifer Young, is also looking to hide. On the run from her old life, she and her four-year-old son, Milo, have moved to a quiet town where no one from her past can find her.
In Jennifer, Margaret sees both a potential companion for her loneliness and a mystery to be solved. She thinks if she says the right thing, tells the right story, Jennifer will open up, but Jennifer refuses to talk about herself, her son, his missing father, or her past. Frustrated, Margaret crosses more and more boundaries in pursuit of the truth, threatening to unravel the new life Jennifer has so painstakingly created—and reveal some secrets of her own…
From the critically acclaimed author of The History of Us and The Myth of You and Me, The New Neighbor is “a promising exploration of the secrets we all carry and our refusal to forgive ourselves” (Publishers Weekly).
Stewart (The History of Us) embarks on a promising exploration of the secrets we all carry and our refusal to forgive ourselves. Margaret Riley is an elderly woman who lives on a pond in the Tennessee mountains. She is comfortable with her seclusion and the company of mystery novels. This changes when Jennifer Young moves into the house across the pond from her, with her young son Milo. Margaret can tell right away that Jennifer has a secret, but she can't figure out what it is. Jennifer becomes her masseuse and Margaret starts to let her guard down, hiring Jennifer to write down her story, while Margaret tries to pry out some details of Jennifer's own life. When Jennifer's secrets come out, Margaret makes confessions of her own. Throughout, it is difficult for readers to feel completely situated within this story. It feels like one part character study and internal monologue, and one part suspense, but without a strong sense of dramatic tension. Readers never feel that either woman is in danger from anyone, so they lack a sense of urgency around their stories. While readers might find their struggles of conscience intriguing, the denouement is clumsy and feels rushed.
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A wonderfully woven story. Leah Stewart is a great storyteller and created complex interesting characters. I will definitely read more of her books!