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Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan #BookReview

Celeste Ng’s enthralling dissection of suburbia meets Shirley Jackson’s creeping dread in this propulsive literary noir. 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.

Arlo Wilde, a gruff has-been rock star who’s got nothing to show for his fame but track marks, is always two steps behind the other dads. His wife, beautiful ex-pageant queen Gertie, feels socially ostracized and adrift. Spunky preteen Julie curses like a sailor and her kid brother Larry is called “Robot Boy” by the kids on the block.

Their next-door neighbor and Maple Street’s Queen Bee, Rhea Schroedera lonely community college professor repressing her own dark pastwelcomes Gertie and family into the fold. Then, during one spritzer-fueled summer evening, the new best friends share too much, too soon.

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 that spins out of control. 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.

Title: Good Neighbors | Author: Sarah Langan |Publisher: Atria Books  | Pub. Date: 02 February 2021 | Pages: 304 | ISBN: 9781982144364 | Genre: Suspense/Horror | Language: English |  Source: Publisher sent for review consideration | Starred Review

Good Neighbors Review

I have TOO MANY books to read. It’s a wonderful problem to have. It also means I’m usually quite picky when requesting or accepting new books to review. There has to be a hook, and Good Neighbors boasts TWO huge things to make me want this book immediately. One, it’s by SARAH LANGAN. Her book The Keeper is a favorite of mine and I’ve read several short stories from her, so I knew the writing and storytelling would be just my style. Two, check out that cover blurb from Liv Constantine! “A modern day Crucible…beneath the surface of a suburban utopia, madness lurks.” Combined with the synopsis, it put me in mind of Arthur Miller, Bentley Little, and Shirley Jackson all in one. Guess what? It is.

Langan weaves her tale of suburbia gone wrong by mixing media in the forms of present day storytelling, flash forwards to news articles, and interviews with others after the fact. This could get messy, but never once was I pulled out of the story or felt jerked around needlessly. If anything, it helps to ramp up the tension and provide the author with yet another way to explore domestic depravity.

The amalgamation of several sub genres ensures that a variety of readers will gel with this novel. There’s a little bit of bildungsroman as we follow Julie and what happens to her friends and brother. Add this to a little bit of small town drama and adult disputes, and there are even more layers to pull back. Finally, for all my fellow darkness-loving readers, Langan stretches back to her horror roots by ratcheting up the suspense and dropping in true moments of terror. When you get to THAT scene, leave me a comment and let me know what you think; there are several.

Perhaps what I enjoyed the most (besides the horror) about this book are the characters and the dissection of a small slice of American suburbia. Like Jackson, Little, and Miller, Good Neighbors scratches at the shiny surface to reveal and comment on real-life horror. All of the issues addressed pick away at the idea of “otherness”. Langan handles this well and readers are left to come to their own conclusions regarding these topics. She does this through expert characterization; there are a LOT of characters to love to hate in this book. And, as in any good book, plenty of good ones to cheer for, too.

If you like your suspense with a little bit of drama, horror, and hope, be sure to pick up this book. I am truly excited to see what my fellow readers think about this book.

  You can purchase a copy of this book via your normal retailer, but please consider purchasing it from a local indie bookshop instead. It can be found here at Indiebound or at BookShop. Please note the Bookshop link is an affiliate link and each purchase you make through it helps to support Sci-Fi & Scary and keep the site running.

Published inBook ReviewsHorror Book ReviewsStarred ReviewsThriller Book Reviews

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