STARRED REVIEW
April 02, 2018

Neighborhood drama: Suburban lives at stake

Neighborhoods can become cities within cities, providing their residents with the sort of community that human beings crave. But proximity combined with intimacy can mean vulnerability. In new novels by Anna Quindlen and Abbi Waxman, two women are shaken to their core by the real-life dramas that play out on their streets. Each book is set in one of the nation’s largest cities but centers on a single neighborhood block. The lives that intersect in those spaces become a microcosm of interpersonal complications.

STARRED REVIEW
April 02, 2018

Neighborhood drama: Suburban lives at stake

Neighborhoods can become cities within cities, providing their residents with the sort of community that human beings crave. But proximity combined with intimacy can mean vulnerability. In new novels by Anna Quindlen and Abbi Waxman, two women are shaken to their core by the real-life dramas that play out on their streets. Each book is set in one of the nation’s largest cities but centers on a single neighborhood block. The lives that intersect in those spaces become a microcosm of interpersonal complications.

April 02, 2018

Neighborhood drama: Suburban lives at stake

Neighborhoods can become cities within cities, providing their residents with the sort of community that human beings crave. But proximity combined with intimacy can mean vulnerability. In new novels by Anna Quindlen and Abbi Waxman, two women are shaken to their core by the real-life dramas that play out on their streets. Each book is set in one of the nation’s largest cities but centers on a single neighborhood block. The lives that intersect in those spaces become a microcosm of interpersonal complications.

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Neighborhoods can become cities within cities, providing their residents with the sort of community that human beings crave. But proximity combined with intimacy can mean vulnerability. In new novels by Anna Quindlen and Abbi Waxman, two women are shaken to their core by the real-life dramas that play out on their streets. Each book is set in one of the nation’s largest cities but centers on a single neighborhood block. The lives that intersect in those spaces become a microcosm of interpersonal complications.

In Quindlen’s Alternate Side, Nora Nolan is frustrated by her husband’s obsession with his newly acquired parking spot. It’s a hot commodity on their New York City dead-end street, and it means a break from the alternate-side parking that is the bane of so many New Yorkers’ existence. But it also means Charlie is now tight with some of the street’s most grating characters, especially busybody George. The way he patrols the parking lot and the neighbors’ business, you would think George owned the place, rather than a mere unit. Then there’s Jack, the man who doesn’t offer any kindness when talking to the neighborhood handyman. They seem like mere annoyances until an incident forces everyone to re-examine what they know about truth and their neighbors.

Waxman’s Other People’s Houses is set on the opposite coast, but her characters have much in common with those in Quindlen’s novel. Four families in Los Angeles’ Larchmont neighborhood are tied together by carpool, if not friendship. Frances Bloom volunteers to run the neighbors’ children to school along with her own three. She’s a stay-at-home mom, after all, so why shouldn’t she take the responsibility off the other parents’ shoulders? The neighborhood learns the answer the hard way when Frances walks in on a neighbor in the throes of an affair.

In both novels, surprising incidents begin the unraveling process of friendships and other relationships. It doesn’t matter whether an individual was involved in the incident; each person begins to examine his or her own place on the block and relationship to the people in their own households.

Quindlen is well established as a documenter of life’s personal moments, with several bestselling novels and a Pulitzer Prize for commentary to her credit. Waxman’s effort, on the other hand, is her sophomore release and a strong follow-up to her debut, The Garden of Small Beginnings. Both Quindlen and Waxman show they are adept at fleshing out the fine details that comprise a life, and leave readers reflecting on the intimacy and risk of finding your community within a larger land.

Get the Books

Alternate Side

Alternate Side

By Anna Quindlen
Random House
ISBN 9780812996067
Other People’s Houses

Other People’s Houses

By Abbi Waxman
Berkley
ISBN 9780399587924

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