When an affluent family moves into an established neighborhood and tears down the existing house to build a McMansion, the neighbors are suspicious. When their actions destroy Valerie Alston-Holt’s beloved old tree, that’s the last straw. Tensions rise and are complicated by the budding romance between Valerie’s son and the new neighbors’ daughter. But just how high can the two families raise the stakes until they reach their tipping point?
A Good Neighborhood is a compelling story that examines issues of race, class, and how people with different values can live alongside one another. My one small complaint was that a few of the characters didn’t feel fully fleshed out, and veered toward stereotypes. But as the events cascaded, I couldn’t put this down.
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In Oak Knoll, a verdant, tight-knit North Carolina neighborhood, professor of forestry and ecology Valerie Alston-Holt is raising her bright and talented biracial son. Xavier is headed to college in the fall, and after years of single parenting, Valerie is facing the prospect of an empty nest. All is well until the Whitmans move in next door – an apparently traditional family with new money, ambition, and a secretly troubled teenaged daughter.
Thanks to his thriving local business, Brad Whitman is something of a celebrity around town, and he’s made a small fortune on his customer service and charm, while his wife, Julia, escaped her trailer park upbringing for the security of marriage and homemaking. Their new house is more than she ever imagined for herself, and who wouldn’t want to live in Oak Knoll? With little in common except a property line, these two very different families quickly find themselves at odds: first, over an historic oak tree in Valerie’s yard, and soon after, the blossoming romance between their two teenagers.
Told from multiple points of view, A Good Neighborhood asks big questions about life in America today―What does it mean to be a good neighbor? How do we live alongside each other when we don’t see eye to eye?―as it explores the effects of class, race, and heartrending star-crossed love in a story that’s as provocative as it is powerful.