The New Neighbor by Leah Stewart
Published by: Touchstone
Published on: July 7, 2015
Page Count: 320
My Reading Format: Review copy sent to me by the publisher for consideration
Available Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, and Audiobook
Summary from the Publisher:
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…
When I received a pitch about The New Neighbor, it caught my interest. There was something Rear Window-ish about the idea of having a mysterious new neighbor move in across the pond in your otherwise isolated mountain top home. Margaret Riley isn’t confined to a wheelchair like Jimmy Stewart’s character, but at 90 years old, she’s not as mobile as she once was. As she works out just who her neighbor, Jennifer, is, Jennifer brings up a past Margaret isn’t too keen to revisit. Jennifer isn’t the only one interfering, though.
The New Neighbor didn’t hold my interest consistently. Aspects of Jennifer’s stay in Tennessee didn’t interest me as much as others, but the way the book was written made it easy to read. Once Margaret’s backstory kicked in, I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened next. Margaret herself isn’t an especially likeable character, but I found some of her insights thought provoking. At one point she thought to herself: “How very sad it is to be honest only when I want to hurt someone.” That sentence alone says so much. Jennifer’s relationship with her daughter Zoe hit home for me as well. Life is never just as easy as honestly loving your children or your parents equally. Choices that demonstrate your deepest loyalties can be some of the most damaging.
I took this book with me to the beach and it turned out to be the perfect kind of book to kick off my summer reading. It was a slow burn and didn’t end up as thrilling as Rear Window. It was a nice book to sit down with after a long day with an adult beverage and relax. No spoilers here, but the ending wasn’t quite what I was expecting from a typical read about women and their relationships. It felt appropriate, but sad. We don’t leave these characters all tidied up. There’s grit left behind, like sand in a pair of old shoes. This book left me thinking about honestly and relationships between neighbors and mothers and daughters.