The New Neighbor by Leah Stewart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Elderly Margaret Riley lives alone in rural Tennessee. She seeks comfort in her mystery novels and her memories - not other people. One day Margaret looks across her pond and realizes she has a new neighbor. Margaret becomes intrigued and eventually meets the young woman, Jennifer, and her son, Milo. Margaret begins telling Jennifer about her past and finds herself increasingly curious about Jennifer's own past. Why are she and Milo in Tennessee? What is Jennifer not telling her? Fancying herself a detective similar to those in her beloved novels, will Margaret unveil Jennifer's secrets?
The novel reveals its stories (and secrets) through varying narratives - mainly those of Margaret and Jennifer. We see Margaret's increasing curiosity about Jennifer's life and Jennifer's own increasing reluctance to share why she and Milo have left their old life behind. Further, we see that the two women may not be as different as they appear. Margaret begins telling Jennifer about her life as a nurse during the War, while we learn about Jennifer's life with her drunken husband. Suddenly, the parallels between the two women -- especially when pushed to the brink -- seem surprisingly clear.
This was an intriguing book, in many ways. Neither Margaret nor Jennifer are incredibly likable characters (Margaret is often your classic "old biddy" for sure), but they are interesting. In some ways, nothing really happens in the book - a lot of the action has happened in the past, and we're simply learning about it as Margaret and Jennifer reveal their respective pasts and secrets. Still, it's an insightful look into the two woman's lives - I found it quite compelling. The end was somewhat fascinating, though it did seem to fall a bit flat after all the buildup. Still, a solid 3.5 stars.
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