In an idyllic suburb, four young families quickly form a neighborhood clique, their friendships based on little more than the ages of their children and a shared sense of camaraderie. When one of the couples, Paige and Gene Edwards, adopt a four-year-old girl from Russia, the group’s loyalty and morality is soon called into question. Are the Edwards unkind to their new daughter? Or is she a difficult child with hidden destructive tendencies?
As the seams of the group friendship slowly unravel, neighbor Nicole Westerhof finds herself drawn further into the life of the adopted girl, forcing Nicole to re-examine the deceptive nature of her own family ties, and her complicity in the events unfolding around her.
First things first: this is not a thriller. It might be described as one, it might even give you the illusion that it is, at least in the first pages. But slowly, slowly, you will understand that it’s not. By definition, a thriller is suppose to…mm… thrill you? To surprise you? And Good Neighbors has a good start in building that required tension. But somehow, chapter after chapter, the tension just dissipates somewhere in thin air, leaving you with a deflated balloon that hisses embarrassingly instead of popping with the glorious bang that you’d expect.
Buuuut…. There is a big “but”. I did actually enjoy the book. I can’t say I was “thrilled” (pun intended) to go back to it each time I interrupted my reading sessions and it did take me a while to finish it because of this reason. But weirdly, I liked the dark colors the author uses to paint her whole story. The slow action didn’t disturb me, the lack of suspense didn’t feel like a flaw. Don’t get me wrong, there is a certain feeling of apprehension, only that it’s not as concentrated as I was expecting when I read the synopsis.
I also loved how dark, somehow rhythmic and melancholic the protagonist’s voice was, as well as how lyrical Serling’s style is because of the abundance of verbless clauses. Few authors surprised me during the years with a very unique writting style that would be worth reading even if they’d write a grocery list, but I think J.D. Serling might actually be one of them.
And my-oh-my, I couldn’t wait to write this review only to share this one thing with anyone who’s reading it: the deeper the writter digs in the heroine’s mind and soul, the deeper you feel she went into your own. There’s nothing wrong with the protagonist. Realistically speaking, she doesn’t do or act in any wrong ways. But in the same time, there’s something disturbing, there’s something that feels somehow too personal and hidden. Or, perhaps, that’s exactly the issue: that it should be concealed and yet, there it is, out in the open, a truth about each one of us that we never acknowledge even to ourselves. You will find that ugly part of yourself in one of the protagonist’s thoughts. Perhaps when she’s thinking about all the ways she wishes her kid to be different. Or when she’s judging her own husband. Or when she’s not such a good friend as she likes to think. When she is not saddened about somebody else’s unhappiness. When she throws money to cover the guilt of lacking the proper feelings or taking the right actions. When she avoids responsibility just because her comfort zone is warm and nice. We all do things like these. We all have dirty sides that we refuse to look at. We all know they are there, despise them, feel guilty about them and yet, do nothing to correct our ways. Maybe because unconsciously, we feel they are irremediable, maybe they are our souls’ diseases that cannot be cured.