Author: A.J. Banner
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: September 1st, 2015
Sarah McDonald lives a comfortable life as a successful children’s author and wife to a handsome dermatologist, Johnny. Living in a quiet suburban area of Washington state, there are few complaints Sarah has about her life. Until the night Sarah wakes up to realize her neighbors house is on fire, with their entire family, two parents and their four year old girl trapped inside.
Sarah and the rest of the neighbors rush to help the family escape their burning home while the fire department is en route. Knowing there is little time to save anyone inside, Sarah rushes into action. Sarah’s determination saves young Mia’s life. The last thing Sarah remembers is seeing debris falling from the sky just as she gets the preschooler to safety.
Sarah wakes up in a hospital bed with her husband, Johnny. While only suffering a concussion and non life threatening injuries, Sarah’s life is changed when she learns that young Mia was the sole survivor of the fire, and that her own home was destroyed when the fire spread across the adjoining trees.
As Sarah tries to hold herself together in spite of her losses, she realizes just how much of her identity was tied up in her home. Her home work studio is gone ,and her neighbors are offering cryptic messages that only add to Sarah’s sense of loss.
How well does Sarah know her neighbors? Does she even know those she loves and trusts the most?
Banner’s short chapters and quick pacing make The Good Neighbor a fast paced, attention grabbing read. It’s easy to empathize with her loss, anyone would feel derailed by the loss of their home.
While Sarah is not a materialistic or vain person, losing her entire home challenges both her identity and her sense of security. As the details of how the fire started come to the surface, Sarah has to piece together who she can trust. Unlike the stories she writes, Sarah’s choices could have life altering affects.
The Good Neighbor keeps a steady pace with an unnerving sense of doubt seeded in Sarah from the beginning. Where the novel falters is in it’s character depth. While we get a fair amount of character development in both Sarah and some other key characters, it can be challenging to empathize with them at times. Sarah’s decisions and thought process do work well in building her growing unease and sense of uncertainty, there are times when her actions are frustrating and seem to contradict the intelligent, capable woman we know she is.
A strong debut from Banner, this psychological thriller warns readers that while the physical aspects of a home are insignificant, the loss of a home can expose truths that have the potential to shatter a person’s entire identity.
A.J. Banner’s second novel, The Twilight Wife, was released in December, 2016 under Touchstone (Simon & Schuster).