REVIEW: THE NEW NEIGHBORS, BY SIMON LELIC

 

Londoners Jack and Syd found their dream home: lots of space, a great location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.

Everything is exactly what they hoped for when they move in–except Jack makes a disturbing discovery in the attic, and Syd begins to wonder about the girl next door. And they each keep the other in the dark.

A mistake.

Because someone has just been killed outside their back door, and now the police are watching them.

This is their chance to prove they’re innocent–or to get away with murder.

Whose story do you believe?

My Thoughts: Alternating narrators tell the story of The New Neighbors. Jack and Syd have reasons to keep secrets. Now the past is creeping up on them, but what will happen before they are finally free?

The story goes back and forth in time, and just when we think we know what is happening, more of the past is revealed…and we are suddenly unsure of both Jack and Syd. Neither appears reliable, and the reasons for their secrets and lies add complex layers to the tale.

Syd has taken the young neighbor girl Elsie under her wing. When she sees how Elsie’s father treats her, she is reminded of her own terrible father, and about how she needed someone to step up for her. Being a protector feels like finally escaping the past.

Themes of controlling and violent fathers hover throughout the story; from Syd’s father to Elsie’s, we can see the damage that a bad father can do. Damage that will affect the daughters moving forward. But it is also possible for at least one damaged daughter to show strength and courage, finding a way to extricate herself from what might seem like a permanent nightmare.

Until the very end, I kept vacillating, trying to decide the truth. Even as the author threw different possible scenarios into the mix, I kept hoping that, finally, all would be revealed. 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE MOTHER’S PROMISE, BY SALLY HEPWORTH

 

All their lives, Alice Stanhope and her daughter, Zoe, have been a family of two, living quietly in Northern California. Zoe has always struggled with crippling social anxiety and her mother has been her constant and fierce protector. With no family to speak of, and the identity of Zoe’s father shrouded in mystery, their team of two works—until it doesn’t. Until Alice gets sick and needs to fight for her life.

Desperate to find stability for Zoe, Alice reaches out to two women who are practically strangers but who are her only hope: Kate, a nurse, and Sonja, a social worker. As the four of them come together, a chain of events is set into motion and all four of them must confront their sharpest fears and secrets—secrets about abandonment, abuse, estrangement, and the deepest longing for family. Imbued with heart and humor in even the most dismal moments, The Mother’s Promise is an unforgettable novel about the unbreakable bonds between mothers and daughters and the new ways in which families are forged.

My Thoughts: From the very beginning pages of The Mother’s Promise, I was captivated by the challenges faced by each of the characters.

First there was Alice, a single mother diagnosed with a potentially deadly disease, confronted with the realization that she will be unavailable to her needy daughter while she fights her illness. Then there is Zoe, the fifteen-year-old daughter who suffers from social anxiety so crippling that speaking, eating in front of others, or forming any kind of normal connections becomes a daily struggle. Being at home with her mother is her only comfort zone.

As Alice begins to deal with her illness, she meets Kate, a nurturing nurse who goes above and beyond to assist, even taking Zoe into her home to avoid foster care placement during her mother’s hospitalization. Kate’s seemingly perfect life is full of personal heartbreak, but I liked seeing how she reached out to Alice and Zoe. The bond developing between Kate and Zoe was a blessing for them both.

Sonya, the hospital social worker, who seems closed-off and occasionally distant…has her own secret battles. Her marriage to George is not what it seems.

The circumstances of Zoe’s conception, and the identity of her father are woven into the story in unexpected ways.

I liked watching Zoe slowly learn to deal with her issues, while her mother began to lean on others. An emotional read that kept me engaged until the very end, this book earned 5 stars.

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