“I wanted her to move past the accident. Not forget — you can’t forget something like that — but I wanted her to forgive herself.”
Twenty years has passed since the car crash that changed Abby’s life happened. Twenty years since Nate pulled a young girl from near a burning car. Just in time to save her. Not in time to save her brother. Twenty years. Time enough to heal, but not nearly time enough to forget.
Abby and Nate met through tragic circumstance, but their meeting led to a happy marriage and a beautiful daughter. Everything is perfect between them. Until the new family moves next door.
Nancy and Liam. A couple just as happy as Abby and Nate. With a son their daughters age. Perfect, except that Liam is the love of Abby’s life. Pushed away through guilt over her brothers death. Perfect, except they pretend they don’t know each other. Lies built on lies. Some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried, and some lies are too complicated to keep. Especially the ones we tell ourselves.
“I should have said something. Made it abundantly clear there was a history between us. A shared past. I had the opportunity. But I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to say anything.”
We get this novel from four different perspectives. Abby, Nate, Nancy, and Sarah’s diary. In addition, we also get flashbacks from Abby and Nate from then (around the time of the accident) and now.
It’s difficult to review this novel without giving anything away. There are many twists and turns written into this plot, some obvious, some not. I did guess two of the more major twists, though they were very subtle. I was also blind-sided by a few! Guessing did not make the reading experience any less enjoyable. In part, because McKinnon does an excellent job coaxing emotions out of the reader through her excellent pacing. In part, because there are still plenty of shocking revelations in the end.
The Neighbors is a deeply psychological novel, written to take us on a journey of emotions. We live Abby’s grief, and Nate’s guilt. We feel the need Abby has to stay in control to keep from unraveling. We are hit with Nancy’s loneliness and Sarah’s frustration. It’s hard to judge the characters on the choices they make, though I will judge one rather harshly. Their actions, lies, and secrets are simply unforgivable.
“It’s habit. If you tell yourself often enough you don’t want something, you convince yourself it’s the truth.”
This book is an interesting examination of the way small lies can guide and shape our lives. We want to present ourselves a certain way, put our best foot forward, and make a good impression. Especially when it comes to love. How often do we simply refuse to show who we really are? What happens, when by the time you’re ready, it’s too late to reveal yourself?
Small lies, build on more small lies, and sometimes, by the time we look back, we’ve built a mountain out of them. The Neighbors shows us how fragile living a life like this can be. It shows us the damage best intentions can often have, and how terribly devastating keeping these lies can be.
It also shows us the cycle of unhappiness. We learn from our parents, and, despite our best intentions, often we become them. What is the price of that inheritance? How does it shape who we are, who we become, and how we parent?
“I shook my head and wondered how I’d become so much like my mother even though I’d distanced myself from her as early as I possibly could.”
In The Neighbors, we get the chance to look at how deep rooted trauma and dysfunction can be. Everything shapes who we are, who we become. Rarely do we get the advantage of outside perspective to help us see the consequences of these small choices that many of us make every day.
McKinnon gives us that opportunity in this cast of characters. The focus is on the accident and the horrible death of Abby’s brother. However, subtly McKinnon reveals the numerous tiny secrets and lies kept between mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, and ultimately, ourselves, that we are all guilty of. We can see how these choices can unravel. We are given the chance to examine those consequences outside of ourselves.
“Being on your best behavior is one thing,” Camilla answered, “but in hindsight, pretending to be something you’re not is stupid. I reckon it’s why one in two marriages end in divorce. You can’t keep the illusion going forever.”
I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a book with multiple layers to dive into and explore. It’s perfect for book clubs, or discussion groups, as each characters perspective and their corresponding secrets are all ripe for pulling apart. I think that this book gives a wide range of opportunity to see something of ourselves, or at least partially recognize in the characters presented. It is perfect for in depth conversations and analysis.
Thank you BookSparks for sending me a copy to read and review!