The New Neighbor features two of the most interesting characters I’ve read about this year. I’m still turning over in my head the actions of Margaret and Jennifer and they continue to rent some space up in there! I read this some time ago, so please excuse the delay in posting my thoughts on it.
The novel alternates between two women/perspectives: 1.) Margaret Riley is a 90-year-old near recluse. She spends her days reading her mystery novels and rarely leaves her home. She is also easily irritated by other people. As she states later on in the story, she chose this life, she chose this life of solitude and silence.
One morning she is sitting out on her patio enjoying her coffee and about to settle into a new novel when she notices a young woman standing outside across the pond, on her own patio. No one has lived in that house for years, and Margaret’s curiosity is peeked. Both women do not acknowledge each other’s presence on that morning.
2.) Jennifer Young (not her real last name) is also looking to hide out. She has left her home with her four-year-old son Milo and purposely found a small quiet town to hide out in, running from a past and in a place where she is sure no one will find her. What she is running from is a pretty predictable part to the story, but it in no way takes away from the suspense of what happens to Jennifer, Milo and Margaret too.
Jennifer is extremely leery of letting anyone in this small town get to know her at all. She is even leery of enrolling her son into a daycare/school program because she does not want anyone to ask any questions about her past, where Milo’s father is and what brings them to this small college town. But, she needs to make a living, and Milo is increasingly wishing for friends and school.
Reluctantly, she enrolls him in a daycare program, where Milo meets a new friend Ben. Jennifer is forced to meet the enthusiastic mom Megan and begins to spend far more time with her than she anticipated. Jennifer is a massage therapist so pins up posters with her phone number advertising the service.
Here is where she meets Margaret. Someone in the town refers Jennifer to Margaret, saying she could use someone going in to check on her. Both Margaret and Jennifer have secrets they wish to keep buried, but over time, the more Jennifer goes to see Margaret to give her a massage, Margaret begins to tell her story about the woman she was in love with during the war, Kay. Kay and Maggie Jean as she was known then, were nurses but something happened to Kay that Margaret has a hard time revealing.
Margaret knows that Jennifer is also hiding something. Margaret sees her new neighbor as “a cave with a rock that blocks the entrance.” Margaret feels she should be able to uncover this mystery because of all the detective novels she has read. So one day, she goes over to Jennifer’s home to snoop around and finds some information that will alter Jennifer’s life completely.
The ending will leave you in pause, well, for certain it did for me. There are the final chapters leading up to the end, and especially the last chapter that details what Jennifer does after she has been “found out” might leave you to question this ending. It’s a good one mind you, but it is one that might disturb you, definitely the actions taken by both these women did leave me thinking of them long, long after I closed the final pages. As I mentioned at the very top of this post, Jennifer and Margaret are two of the most interesting women I’ve read about in awhile. Their final actions will certainly leave you thinking, mulling it over, turning it over in your head well after you’ve finished. I can almost guarantee it!
BookPage interviewed Leah Stewart about The New Neighbor – you can find that here.
The New Neighbor was also featured in Deep South Magazine’s Summer Reading List. I’ve read quite a few on this list now. Great list! Some really great reads came off this list for me this year.
And thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for sending me The New Neighbor. That’s two books in my summer reading that have left me a satisfied reader! (The New Neighbor and The Blue.) Many thanks!