The Neighbor by Joseph Souza

‘It feels strange being one of only two families living in this abandoned development.’

Leah and Clay Daniels, with their twins Zack and Zadie, move from Seattle to Maine. The move is to enable Clay to follow his dream of establishing a craft beer brewery. But the neighbourhood is not what Leah expected: the housing development is almost abandoned. Their only neighbours, Clarissa and Russell Gaines seem aloof. Clay works long hours, and Leah is bored:

‘I need to find something more meaningful in my life besides being a wife and mother.’

So Leah starts watching Russell and Clarissa. She both envies and admires their home and their university careers. But watching quickly turns to obsession, with Leah sneaking into their home. In the meantime, a local college girl has gone missing…

The first part of the story unfolds over two weeks in October, with the final part unfolding over ten days the following August. Both Clay and Leah are the story’s unreliable narrators: both have secrets, each seems able to justify quite outrageous self-centred behaviour.

‘Every story has another side.’

There is more than one mystery in this novel, more than one truth to be uncovered. And, as I discovered, more than one twist in the tale.

But the truth is that while I enjoyed some aspects of this story, the characters were so shallow, so self-absorbed that I really didn’t much care what happened to them. I felt sorry for the children and the dog, but the adults were either deluded or manipulative (and sometimes both). As the story progresses, more questions emerge, but some of the twists (no spoilers here) had me rolling my eyes in disbelief. I couldn’t stop reading because I had to know how it would end. And the ending? Hmm. I think I’d have enjoyed the novel more if I’d liked one of the main characters better, had more interest in why some of the characters acted the way they did, or found some of the actions more believable.

Note: My thanks to Joseph Souza, NetGalley and Kensington Books for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith