Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Review: The Perfect Neighbors by Sarah Pekkanen

Publisher: Washington Square Press
Pub. Date: July 5th, 2016
Pages: 352

How well do you ever really know the family next door?

Bucolic Newport Cove, where spontaneous block parties occur on balmy nights and all of the streets are named for flowers, is proud of its distinction of being named one the top twenty safest neighborhoods in the US. It’s also one of the most secret-filled.

Kellie Scott has just returned to work after a decade of being a stay-at-home mom. She’s adjusting to high heels, scrambling to cook dinner for her family after a day at the office—and soaking in the dangerous attention of a very handsome, very married male colleague. Kellie’s neighbor Susan Barrett begins every day with fresh resolutions: she won’t eat any carbs, she’ll go to bed at a reasonable hour, and she’ll stop stalking her ex-husband and his new girlfriend. Gigi Kennedy seems to have it all together—except her teenage daughter has turned into a hostile stranger and her husband is running for Congress, which means her old skeletons are in danger of being brought into the light.

Then a new family moves to this quiet, tree-lined cul-de-sac. Tessa Campbell seems friendly enough to the other mothers, if a bit reserved. Then the neighbors notice that no one is ever invited to Tessa’s house. And soon, it becomes clear that Tessa is hiding the biggest secret of all.

What Did I Think About the Story?

I became a lifelong fan of Sarah Pekkanen after reading her first novel, The Opposite of Me, and have since gotten every book she's written when it comes out (you can read my reviews of most of them here: The Best of Us, These Girls, All is Bright, Love, Accidentally, Beginning Again). Any fan will tell you that Sarah has an astounding ability to really make you feel for her characters, and to present stories filled with both humor and heartache in a style all her own. I haven't read a story by her yet that I didn't love, including her newest The Perfect Neighbors.

The overriding feeling I kept going back to as I read The Perfect Neighbors was the fact that these women and their neighbors felt more real than a lot of my own neighbors do! I could completely picture myself grabbing a drink with Kellie, Susan, Gigi, and Tessa as we talked about what was going on in our lives (or most of it) and laughed at the curmudgeonly old neighbor to one side and the gossipy busybody to the other. It got to the point that I found myself wanting to reach in and shake them when I saw them going down a dangerous path or hug them when they hurt. I absolutely loved these women and was able to find something of myself, even if just a little, in each one and the struggles they individually tried to work through.   

I'm still not sure how Sarah Pekkanen does it, but she took me once again on an emotional rollercoaster that had me laughing one minute and  sniffling the next. Not only do these women make you laugh at times (especially Kelly and Gigi), but most chapters begin with these quick Listserv email strands from various neighbors that I found so funny...and so like something I would be reading if we had that service in my neighborhood! But interspersed with the comical parts of this story are some pretty heavy subject matters, all dealt with in very real and tender ways. Across the story we see these women grapple with insecurities, infidelities, and a wide range of concerns for their children, from the normal issues that come as children grow to possible abuse. Any parent will get a little hitch in their heart as these women and their husbands try to do everything they can for their families, sometimes with unexpected consequences, both good and very, very bad.

It's probably time for me to stop fangirling over this novel and its wonderful author, but I know I won't be able to forget about these women for a while (maybe we can see them show back up in a short story? Huh? Please?!). If you haven't already, pick up Sarah Pekkanen's novels. I cherish each one I've read.

What Did I Think About the Cover?

I really like it. First off, pink happens to be my favorite color, so that combined with the vibrant green makes it eye-catching to me. Secondly, since the story is about what is really going on behind these neighbors' closed doors, the idea of someone peeking into that secrecy is fitting (although that doesn't actually happen in the story and I can't imagine our women being that sneaky). Finally (and something that means a lot to my whacky sometimes-OCD brain), the fact that all the covers of Sarah's books compliment each other and look good together on my shelves is a plus.

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

I won a paperback copy of The Perfect Neighbors (thank you Kathy Nolan and Sarah Pekkanen!) All opinions expressed in my review are my honest and unbiased opinions.
You can find more information and reviews of the book, as well as information regarding where to purchase a copy, on Goodreads.

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