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The New Neighbor: A Novel by Leah Stewart

The New Neighbor: A Novel

by Leah Stewart

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Quick read. Interesting but not as suspenseful or twisted as I thought it was going to be. ( )
  howifeelaboutbooks | Dec 26, 2016 |
This is the story of two women - one young (Jennifer) and one old (Margaret) - whose lives intersect in rural Tennessee. They are both keeping secrets about their past, and those secrets have tremendously damaged each of them. Normally, in stories like this, you would expect a bright, shiny resolution to all of the problems. Not so in this book - and I like that. Sometimes, real life can't be neatly tied up in a nice, pretty bow. ( )
1 vote flourgirl49 | May 13, 2016 |
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. ( )
  justacatandabook | Mar 9, 2016 |
This is a gentle domestic drama featuring a runaway wife and mother and her nonagenarian neighbor, who fancies herself as Miss Marple. Jennifer offered herself to Tony at age 14, had two children, but his alcoholism drove her from home. Margaret, a WWII Army nurse, had to contend with suicide and murder during the war. Jennifer, a massage therapist, begins to feel comfortable in Sewanee, TN, but her involvement with Margaret, who lives across a small pond, becomes problematical.

The portrayal of both women seems very realistic - especially Margaret, so unlike the generic sweet old lady - she is bitter, selfish, and fearful. "I'm lonely", I said to Lucy. How very sad it is to be honest only when I want to hurt someone."

The ending is most satisfactorily unneatly wrapped up. ( )
  froxgirl | Jan 21, 2016 |
Margaret is 91, lives in a house in Tennessee on a mountaintop. The house across from the pond from hers has remained empty since the woman that had lived there had died. Empty., until Jennifer and her four year old son moved in, an occurrence that both intrigues and upsets Margaret. She had come to prize her solitude, but she can't help but be curious. Jennifer has come, seeking a new life for her and her son.

The structure of this book is rather simple, each chapter narrated by Margaret or Jennifer and a little later on by Zoe. While the structure is simple the unraveling of the plot is brilliant. Slowly the reader comes to realize that both these women have secrets in their pasts. The novel is a quiet one, told in linear fashion but with many flashbacks to let the reader know what happened in their pasts. Margaret tells hers or most of hers in conversations with Jennifer because she wants to leave a written record of her life, having been a nurse in WWII, and had seen many terrible things. Margaret's curiosity soon turns into an obsession. She will not stop until she learns all of Jennifer's secrets. There is no overt air of suspense to this novel just a feeling of dread, or at least that is how I felt.

Not sure if I really liked any of these characters, but I understood them. Beaten down in different ways by life they has each put up a shell that was hard to break through. I do love that the author avoided a cliched ending, instead wrote on that I felt was more realistic to the storyline and the characters past actions. A good book that takes a fair amount of patience, especially at the beginning.

I think the motto of this novel is: If you have secrets do not move anywhere near an elderly, single woman. ( )
  Beamis12 | Jul 26, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
added by jmg12 | editThe New York Times, MARILYN STASIO (Jul 5, 2015)
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The whole world thinks she did it.  She knows that.  Even in her house with the doors locked and the blinds down, she can feel the weight of it.  All that certainty.
Every story is a history...and when there is no comprehensible story, there is no history. ---CHARLES BAXTER, BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE
Shall we continue with your story where we left off? He says. I've forgotten just where that was, I say.  This is not quite true, but I wish to see if he has really been listening to me, or just pretending. ---MARGARET ATWOOD, ALIAS GRACE
I always see the skull beneath the skin. ---P. D. JAMES
For Dr. Florence "Flossie" Ridley
For Dr. Florence "Flossie" Ridley
And in memory of
Col. Ellis Cameron "Cam" Stewart and Mildred "Sissy" Stewart
Dr. Nina J. Markus and Capt. Felix "Mac" McAndrews
And in memory of Col. Ellis Cameron "Cam" Stewart and Mildred "Sissy" Stewart, 
Dr. Nina J. Markus and Capt. Felix "Mac" McAndrews
First words
Where before there was no one, suddenly I, Margaret Riley, have a neighbor.
The whole world thinks she did it.
Impatience and age are not compatible.
Before they put me into a nursing home, in forced companionship with the sick and the dying, I will fling myself into the pond. I'll weight my pockets with rocks, like Virginia Woolf, whose books I did my best to understand. All her words float away when I think of her. I see her crouched at the edge of the water, searching for just the right stones.
But some of us don't work so that we can rest. Some of us rest so that we can work.
Don't leave me. Anyone I can say that to is already gone.
The world has forgotten that there is more pleasure in wondering than knowing.
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