Category Archives: Washington Square Press

Review: The Perfect Neighbors by Sarah Pekkanen

Title: The Perfect Neighbors by Sarah Pekkanen
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Genre: Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

How well do you ever really know the family next door?

Bucolic Newport Cove, where spontaneous block parties occur on balmy nights and all of the streets are named for flowers, is proud of its distinction of being named one the top twenty safest neighborhoods in the US. It’s also one of the most secret-filled.

Kellie Scott has just returned to work after a decade of being a stay-at-home mom. She’s adjusting to high heels, scrambling to cook dinner for her family after a day at the office—and soaking in the dangerous attention of a very handsome, very married male colleague. Kellie’s neighbor Susan Barrett begins every day with fresh resolutions: she won’t eat any carbs, she’ll go to bed at a reasonable hour, and she’ll stop stalking her ex-husband and his new girlfriend. Gigi Kennedy seems to have it all together—except her teenage daughter has turned into a hostile stranger and her husband is running for Congress, which means her old skeletons are in danger of being brought into the light.

Then a new family moves to this quiet, tree-lined cul-de-sac. Tessa Campbell seems friendly enough to the other mothers, if a bit reserved. Then the neighbors notice that no one is ever invited to Tessa’s house. And soon, it becomes clear that Tessa is hiding the biggest secret of all.

Review:

The Perfect Neighbors by Sarah Pekkanen is a compelling novel about the secrets of four neighbors living in idyllic Newport Cove, one of the twenty safest communities in America.

The oldest of the friends, Gigi Kennedy is happily married to husband, Joe, who is running for Congress while juggling his day job as a lawyer for an environmental company. She is a dedicated mom to their two daughters, fifteen year old Melanie and twelve year old Julia but she has a few secrets she would rather keep under wraps. Her biggest concern at the moment is her volatile relationship with Melanie, who has morphed from an innocent, happy young woman into a secretive, argumentative teenager Gigi barely recognizes.  While she is very supportive of Joe’s bid for office, she is not at all happy with the intense media scrutiny and she is rather suspicious of her husband’s twenty-two year old campaign manager, Zach.

Recently returning to work after staying home with her two children, ten year Mia and seven year old Noah, Kellie Scott is rediscovering herself. A real estate agent who is indulging in a not quite so innocent flirtation with her good-looking, married co-worker, Kellie is growing increasingly unhappy in her long-term marriage to her high school sweetheart, Jason. Instead of focusing on Jason’s positive qualities, all she can see are his flaws and Kellie cannot help but wonder if she can endure a future filled with the same old things year in and year out.

An über successful  businesswoman, Susan Barrett is struggling to move past her ex-husband Randall’s betrayal.  While she is grateful he is still an active part of their son Cole’s life, she cannot help but resent the new life he has created with his girlfriend Daphne.  Living the same neighborhood as her ex, Susan spends her free evenings sitting outside his house where she tortures herself by imagining what might be happening behind closed. Stunned by the happy couple’s latest news, Susan cannot help but reflect on why her marriage failed.

Newcomers to Newport Cove, Tessa Campbell and her husband Harry are a bit of enigma. An overprotective mom of two, Tessa tries to keep her distance from their new neighbors. Although she quickly succumbs to the warm welcome from Gigi, Kellie and Susan, she remains very tight-lipped about her family’s past. Of course, her new friends are a little curious about why Tessa keeps such a close eye on her two children, nine year old Bree and seven year old Addison. However, it is not until Harry’s shocking panic on Halloween that the three women seriously begin to question what is going on with Campbell family.

While the various events with Kellie, Susan and Gigi occur in the present, the truth about Tessa’s past is slowly revealed through a series of flashbacks. Going all the back to when Bree was a few months old, an interesting picture begins to emerge as Tessa struggles with single parenting since Harry is frequently out of town for business. Completely stressed and overwhelmed, she sees danger lurking behind every corner and after a few overreactions about her children’s safety, Tessa questions her judgment. All of her worries culminate in a shocking act that precipitates the family’s sudden move to Newport Cove.

Despite the outward peaceful appearance of Newport Cove, the enclave’s newsletter is quite entertaining as neighbors complain about barking dogs and the mystery dog pooping on various residents’ lawn.  A curmudgeon homeowner goes to great lengths to ensure everyone stays off his lawn while another neighbor goes out of her way to stick her nose into the newsletters’ various announcements, questions and grievances.  Despite the sometimes nitpicky complaints, there is a strong sense of community as everyone goes about their day to day lives. Readers will easily relate to the nuisance complaints (because who hasn’t experienced these things in their neighborhood?!) while at the same time, they will also appreciate the close-knit friendships between Kellie, Susan, Gigi and Tessa.

The Perfect Neighbors is an engaging novel of friendship with a captivating dash of mystery.  The different storylines about each of the women are absolutely riveting and there is plenty of anticipation over how each of the women’s issues will be resolved.  While all of the story arcs are interesting, the suspense about the reasons behind Tessa and Harry’s sudden move to Newport Cove is what keeps the pages turning at a blistering pace.  Old and new fans of Sarah Pekkanen are sure to love this newest release.

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Filed under Contemporary, Literary Fiction, Rated B+, Review, Sarah Pekkanen, The Perfect Nighbors, Washington Square Press

Review: The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen

Title: The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

An all-expense paid week at a luxury villa in Jamaica—it’s the invitation of a lifetime for a group of old college friends. All four women are desperate not just for a reunion, but for an escape: Tina is drowning under the demands of mothering four young children. Allie is shattered by the news that a genetic illness runs in her family. Savannah is carrying the secret of her husband’s infidelity. And finally, there’s Pauline, who spares no expense to throw her wealthy husband an unforgettable thirty-fifth birthday celebration, hoping it will gloss over the cracks already splitting apart their new marriage.

Languid hours on a private beach, gourmet dinners, and late nights of drinking kick off an idyllic week for the women and their husbands. But as a powerful hurricane bears down on the island, turmoil swirls inside the villa, forcing each of the women to re-evaluate everything she knows about her friends—and herself.

The Review:

Sarah Pekkanen’s The Best of Us is a marvelous novel about friendship. But it is also a journey of self-discovery as each of the women comes to terms with the various challenges facing them as they enjoy a decadent week long vacation in Jamaica.

Tina, Allie, Savannah and Dwight were best friends in college. Tina is now married to Gio and is a stay at home mom to their four young children. Allie is married to Ryan and now their two kids are older, she is working part time as a social worker. Savannah is a real estate agent and unbeknownst to her friends, she and her husband Gary are separated and on the verge of divorce. Dwight is a socially awkward millionaire and it is his wife Pauline who has arranged the extravagant celebration for his thirty-fifth birthday.

As they embark on their trip, each of the women is at a crisis point in their lives. Tina loves her four children, but Gio’s long hours leave her as the kids’ primary caregiver and she is exhausted emotionally and physically from the demands of motherhood. Allie has learned devastating information about her birth father that leaves her reeling. Savannah is hoping the trip will take her mind off her conflicted feelings about Gary’s infidelity and their impending divorce. Pauline is faltering under the weight of the secrets she is keeping from Dwight.

All of the characters in The Best of Us are well-developed and multi-faceted. Tina and Allie are the most realistic and easy to relate while Savannah and Pauline come across as a little superficial. But there are hidden depths to each of these women, and their reactions to the unfolding drama are not as predictable as one would think. I wavered between liking and disliking each of the women throughout the story, and by the end of the novel, my opinions of each of them had dramatically altered from my first impressions.

The lavish party and lush tropical location counteract the more serious aspects of the storyline. Spirits are high with the liquor flowing freely and there is much laughter as everyone begins to relax and enjoy themselves. There are many light-hearted moments as everyone partakes in luscious meals and explores their idyllic surroundings.

The plot is unpredictable and Sarah Pekkanen keeps the reader off balance with some very surprising twists and turns. As the story progresses, the sense of camaraderie is occasionally marred by squabbles and jealousy. Loyalties shift as perceptions change due to some of the events that occur between the various characters.

But what makes The Best of Us such an outstanding read is the growth of the characters. They each gain new insight not only about themselves, but one another as well. The bonds of friendship are challenged but will emerge stronger than ever in the wake of unexpected revelations. An emotionally satisfying and compelling novel that I highly recommend.

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Filed under Contemporary, Fiction, Rated B, Review, Sarah Pekkanen, The Best of Us, Washington Square Press