The New Neighbor by Leah Stewart (2 out of 5)
This one was close to getting a “Throw that motherfucker in the garbage!” status, but there are redeeming qualities, so I didn’t do that. I got this from Wendy at S&S. I’ve read Leah Stewart’s other books, the first two in particular are boss, but the past couple have not been as great. I may just be changing in my tastes in books the older I get, or I just don’t have the emotional barometer for the tumult going on. This one took several odd turns that I just couldn’t make myself reconcile to, no matter how I tried. And I tried! I loved the premise, I loved the cover, and I loved several of her earlier works. Unfortunately, this book may have made me fall out of love with her for a long, long time.
Jennifer Young and her 4-year old son Milo move to a town where it’s peace, quiet, and a whole lot of not asking questions. Jennifer’s trying to escape her past, and this is the perfect place- or so it seems. Her neighbor across the lake, 90-year old Margaret, has a solitary life where she spends her days reading mystery novels, and reliving her past. She notices Jennifer, and waves at her across the lake- and begins asking herself all sorts of questions about her new neighbor- and THAT’s where the trouble begins. How much of a threat is 90-year old Margaret? You wouldn’t think it, but her curiosity about Jennifer threatens to overtake her. Her mind, inundated with all of these mysteries she’s read, goes haywire and she asks questions of Jennifer, but Jennifer doesn’t reveal. She becomes Margaret’s massage therapist (she needs the money), and she and Margaret build what appeared to me to be a tenuous friendship. Margaret is WAY too ornery and nosey for her own good, and Jennifer starts to waver under all of the scrutiny. Her past begins to come out more when her estranged oldest daughter Zoe comes out of the woodwork and SHE and Margaret begin to bond. It seemed to me, reading this, that when Margaret’s seemingly endless questions go unanswered, she hopscotches to Zoe and tries to get the dirt. Almost like a “Fatal Attraction” sort of situation here, as odd as it seems with a young woman and a 90-year old woman. Zoe is a spoiled young lady and of course she bonds with Margaret, because she thinks nothing of judging Jennifer and the “awful situation” she’s running and hiding from. You have hints that it’s in relation to Jennifer’s deceased husband, and indeed it is. But when that reveal comes? I wanted to set the book on fire. What the hell was that? She ran from something that was NOT her fault. She ran from something that had happened, and wasn’t going to be undone. And acted as if something drastically awful happened. What happened, when you get the whole story, is awful, no question. But when you get the “Whole Reveal”, you feel incredibly incredulous. And that was the final death knell with this book. I thought of Jennifer and her son as wonderfully likable characters, but Margaret? Her stories of things past aren’t always clear, her predatory nature toward “solving the mystery” (when it’s really none of her fucking business) of Jennifer and her past borders on psychotic creepy, and Zoe? Needed a good kick in the ass and a good therapist. Color me terribly disinterested in the book’s ending for Margaret and Zoe, and terribly disappointed in what happened to Jennifer’s husband, and this one? I put in the recycle bin, because it was that disappointing that I won’t pass it on to any of my friends.
The New Neighbor is out now, at your local bookstores. Proceed with caution.