Wednesday, February 22, 2017

#BookReview: THE WOMAN NEXT DOOR by Yewande Omotoso

Summary: Hortensia James and Marion Agostino are neighbors. One is black, the other white. Both are successful women with impressive careers. Both have recently been widowed, and are living with questions, disappointments, and secrets that have brought them shame. And each has something that the woman next door deeply desires.

Sworn enemies, the two share a hedge and a deliberate hostility, which they maintain with a zeal that belies their age. But, one day, an unexpected event forces Hortensia and Marion together. As the physical barriers between them collapse, their bickering gradually softens into conversation, which yields a discovery of shared experiences. But are these sparks of connection enough to ignite a friendship, or is it too late to expect these women to change?

Review: When you've found yourself in a marriage with little love for decades, in a country and, particularly a suburb, which you have no use for, it's likely that you might become bitter. Hortensia James is bitter and it shows in everything she does, aside from her career. And while it's amusing to read of her attending home owner meetings just to antagonize the other women, Marion Agostino specifically, it's also sad. If you're like me, you find yourself wondering what could have happened in her life to lead her to this point. Thankfully, the author takes us on a leisurely stroll through Hortensia's past.

An accomplished woman in her field of architecture, one might think Marion Agostino is confident, but she's not. She's an insecure and controlling woman who's driven her adult children away. The only thing she controls is the local home owner's meeting and Hortensia won't even let her do that without starting an argument. She tries to include her neighbor in discussions, but Hortensia has a knack for knocking her down and putting her in her place.

My biggest takeaways are that Hortensia is bitter because she's unforgiving and a bit of a bully, but also scared. It's also interesting that while she seemed to have no problem confronting other when she had a problem with them, she never confronted her husband, instead choosing to let her anger toward him build for years. And Marion is a nag because she knows that no one truly likes her, she even questions whether her husband and children ever did, given her circumstances. While others are afraid to confront either lady, they have no problem calling each other out. It was clever of Omotoso to put these two women, so alike and yet so different, together.

288 p.
Published: February 2017

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