In Oak Knoll, a verdant, tight-knit North Carolina neighborhood, professor of forestry and ecology Valerie Alston-Holt is raising her bright and talented biracial son, Xavier, who’s headed to college in the fall. All is well until the Whitmans—a family with new money and a secretly troubled teenage daughter—raze the house and trees next door to build themselves a showplace.

With little in common except a property line, these two families quickly find themselves at odds: first, over an historic oak tree in Valerie’s yard, and soon after, the blossoming romance between their two teenagers.

A Good Neighborhood asks big questions about life in America today—what does it mean to be a good neighbor? How do we live alongside each other when we don’t see eye to eye?—as it explores the effects of class, race, and heartrending love in a story that’s as provocative as it is powerful.
an interior journey thoughts

As we follow the people living in A Good Neighborhood, we learn about their current lives and background stories, just as we begin to pick sides. All of us will have favorites, but mine were the characters Valerie and Julia, although the teenagers Xavier and Juniper seemed to pull at the heart of the tale and brought the sharpest focus on the issues. Brad Whitman, the rich man who seemed to control the neighborhood, was beyond unlikable. His behavior set the tone for the neighborhood’s dark side.

Issues of race, the environment, wealth, and poverty…all that we see in contemporary America, flowed through the story and tugged at our emotions.

I couldn’t stop reading, turning the pages rapidly, and I was so glad I chose this book for my First Book of the Year. 5 stars.