◐ Book Name: A Gracious Neighbor
◐ Author: Chris Cander
◐ Genre: Contemporary Fiction
◐ Pages: 304
Martha Hale lives in an affluent neighbourhood, where she feels a disconnect with the other residents. However, when high school acquaintance, Minnie Wright, moves in next door, Martha endeavours to form a friendship with her new neighbour, leading to a dark obsession.
◐ Review: 1/5 ⭐
I received a copy of this book from the publication team in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.
Let me start with the good. It’s a simple read.
As a character, Martha grated on me as though she was written into existence purely for the purpose of irking me. At 38 years old, she is incredibly insecure, to the point of being desperate and obnoxious. She consistently tries to ingratiate herself to the other women around her, their general disdain for her notwithstanding. To make up for what she believes is her lack of fashion taste and ability to mold to her neighbours’ “rich housewife” standards, she chatters nearly non-stop when she runs into anyone, not realising that it is precisely her inability to read social cues that turns people off. Martha displays a gross lack of discernment. She has absolutely no skill at reading people (if one had to sum up the entire book, it would be: read this as a warning of what happens when you make wildly inaccurate assumptions about others, and also what happens when you are too insecure to enjoy your own life that you are compelled to stalk someone else’s).
I despise Martha.
Her new neighbour Minnie appears to live the life Martha wants for herself. She has a beautiful, large house, and a rich husband; she is elegant and glamourous without being gaudy, and seems beautifully self-assured. She is everything Martha wishes she was. This quickly earns her Martha’s admiration, and ultimately, obsession.
Martha’s stalker behaviour escalates to the point of her breaking into Minnie’s house on several occasions. In her mind, these actions are all justifiable. “For the greater good,” she even says.
Besides Martha, all the other characters are bland and unlikeable. Minnie is set up to be mysterious, but I could not bring myself to care about her story.
Plotwise, I have even less to say. What even was the plot? And on that note, what was the point? I sense the author is trying to say that judging people without knowing the full story is dangerous, but it seemed as though she did not have much to say about Martha’s extremely creepy and stalker habits. Martha only concludes that she misjudged Minnie, and we are meant to view that as character growth.
By the close of the book, nothing felt resolved. The ending was abrupt and left numerous loose ends, but I was so done with this book by the first fourth of it that I felt only relief that it was finally over.