Small, perfect towns often hold the deepest secrets.

From the outside, Essie’s life looks idyllic: a loving husband, a beautiful house in a good neighborhood, and a nearby mother who dotes on her grandchildren. But few of Essie’s friends know her secret shame: that in a moment of maternal despair, she once walked away from her newborn, asleep in her carriage in a park. Disaster was avoided and Essie got better, but she still fears what lurks inside her, even as her daughter gets older and she has a second baby.

When a new woman named Isabelle moves in next door to Essie, she is an immediate object of curiosity in the neighborhood. Why single, when everyone else is married with children? Why renting, when everyone else owns? What mysterious job does she have? And why is she so fascinated with Essie? As the two women grow closer and Essie’s friends voice their disapproval, it starts to become clear that Isabelle’s choice of neighborhood was no accident. And that her presence threatens to bring shocking secrets to light.

My Thoughts: In the quiet Melbourne neighborhood, there are expectations about how people should interact with one another. There are get-togethers, there is a civility between them that is somewhat superficial, but then there is a neighborhood watch to make them feel safe.

As we gradually come to know each of the characters, there are hints of their secrets, and we are not quite sure how much we will learn. Which of the families has the most to hide? Why did Isabelle, a single woman, move onto Pleasant Court? We sense something is not right with her. She seems almost too enmeshed in their lives. What could she be hiding?

Alternating narrators tell the story in The Family Next Door, and occasionally an unidentified narrator is experiencing something horrific: a stillbirth, anxiety, and then confusion.

We learn about some of Fran’s secrets, and why she runs several times a day, almost like an addict.

Ange needs to present the perfect front…she is the realtor, after all. She “sells” the life you want to lead. But her seemingly perfect husband Lucas has layers of secrets.

Then there is Barbara, the perfect grandmother, but something is not right there, either.

As the revelations start coming to light, especially one totally unexpected one, we see that a missing piece of the puzzle has just clicked into place. 4.5 stars.

***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.


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