The Good Neighbor, A.J. Banner – A Review

The Good Neighbor begins with our narrator, Sarah Phoenix, witnessing a fire at her next-door neighbor’s house. Sarah helps to rescue her 4 year old neighbor, Mia, from the house, before flames shoot from the upstairs window and set her own house aflame. Afflicted with guilt that she was unable to rescue Mia’s parents and consumed with pain over losing her own house, Sarah struggles to recover. Johnny, Sarah’s husband comes home early from a conference to be with his wife, who was injured in the fire. As the plot flies along, Sarah introduces the reader to a variety of characters, neighbors, a realtor who helps them find a new home, and possible exes or new lovers of Johnny, who Sarah begins to suspect is cheating on him and (though she never says it) that he could have had something to do with the fire. But who really set that fire, and will Sarah’s life ever be the same?

When reading lines of text about Sarah’s husband, I first suspected that they might already be divorced or that he might be dead. Even in the beginning of the novel, when their relationship is still intact, Sarah reflects on him as a lost lover—turns out he’s just at a conference out of town. The second chapter dives right into Sarah’s inciting incident and predicament all within a few lines of text. I had not even gotten the chance to know Sarah or her husband Johnny and their life together before it was torn apart. It made for a jarring start to the novel.

I found myself wishing that the narrator had devloped more of her own thoughts. Her actions did not reflect a past of any kind… she did not have any ticks, pet peeves, or faults, except that she was quite naive. Sarah is quick to react when Mia is in danger, but almost entirely fails to react to any other prompt throughout the novel. She is a flat character, whose arc is underdeveloped. Extraneous characters litter the scenes, and the author fails to bring clarity to the plot.

SPOILER ALERT: Admittedly, I am thoroughly intrigued by books with a female villain!

  • Plot 2.5 stars
  • Characters 3 stars
  • Suspense 4 stars
  • Believability 2.5 stars
  • Romance 2 stars
  • Friends 2 stars
  • Well-Written 3 stars
  • Ease of Read 4 stars

Overall 2.8 stars

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