Booklist Reviews 2019 November #2
The first page in Fowler's (A Well-Behaved Woman, 2018) third novel, her first set in the present, lets readers know that there will be a funeral; they'll wonder whose it might be right up to the book's final pages. With his wife and two daughters, local HVAC celebrity Brad Whitman moves into his new dream house on the lot behind Valerie Alston-Holt's property, where she lives with her son, Xavier, in charming Oak Knoll, North Carolina. When it's clear that the Alston-Holts' beloved, centuries-old oak tree is suffering because of the Whitmans' construction, ecology professor Valerie, who is Black, takes action that prompts Brad, who is white, to reveal his true colors in a spiral of devastation. This is hardly an easy setup for the budding romance between teens Xavier and Juniper Whitman, which was already complicated by the purity promise Juniper's parents encouraged her to take. Narrated by the neighborhood, a diverse, collective we that sometimes interrupt their storytelling to reflect on all they knew and didn't know, this is a rippling story for fans of suspenseful domestic dramas. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2019 December
In a departure from her best-selling historical fiction (A Well-Behaved Woman), Fowler writes a searing story of a neighborhood in present-day America, shining a spotlight on the effects of class and race as two families collide in a small, gentrifying community. Having made a fortune in the HVAC business, Brad Whitman, who is white, moves his family to a big, brand-new house in Oak Knoll, NC. He should be living the dream, but instead he's soon clashing with his African American neighbor Valerie Alston-Holt when she files a lawsuit against him for damaging the giant oak tree in her yard during construction of his new house. Meanwhile, despite the animosity between their parents and the difference in their skin color, teenagers Juniper Whitman and Xavier Alston-Holt are drawn to each other. They steal moments together at the border of their backyards and begin a tentative romance. As their relationship deepens, however, Juniper's family situation becomes even more complicated, threatening to jeopardize all of their futures. VERDICT Fowler skillfully renders her characters and their experiences into an unforgettable, heartbreaking story. Great for book clubs and fans of Tayari Jones and Jodi Picoult. [See Prepub Alert, 7/1/19.]—Melissa DeWild, Comstock Park, MI
Copyright 2019 Library Journal.
PW Reviews 2019 November #3
Fowler's fascinating follow-up to 2018's A Well-Behaved Woman chronicles the animosity generated between two families that leads to a tragedy in the suburban North Carolina neighborhood of Oak Knoll. Before local TV celebrity Brad Whitman, who is white, moves in, black single mother and ecologist Valerie Alston-Holt already has a poor opinion of him, as the house he is having built compromises an oak tree on Valerie's property. She grows even more wary upon learning that Brad's 17-year-old step-daughter Juniper took a purity vow. None of this deters Valerie's son, Xavier, a gifted musician and honors student who's headed to college in the fall, from pursuing her Juniper. A particularly ugly side of Brad emerges once Valerie sues him and his builder for damage to the tree: he doesn't understand her genuine concern for the ecosystem and makes a number of racist and misogynistic remarks to her. Brad sees an opportunity for revenge when he catches Juniper and Xavier in an intimate moment and later uses his connections to a prosecutor and spins the truth to trump up charges against Xavier. The plot is skillfully executed, delving into each character's complexities fully enough that their choices make perfect sense. This page-turner delivers a thoughtful exploration of prejudice, preconceived notions, and what it means to be innocent in the age of an opportunistic media. 350,000-copy announced first printing. (Feb.)
Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.