Hello lovelies! Today I’m very excited to be taking part in the Blog Tour to celebrate the release of Good Neighbours by Sarah Langan and I’m grateful to Titan Books for having me along! I have a shiny excerpt for you, but first here’s the blurb!
Welcome to Maple Street, a picture-perfect slice of suburban Long Island, its residents bound by their children, their work, and their illusion of safety in a rapidly changing world.
Arlo Wilde, a gruff has-been rock star who’s got nothing to show for his fame but track marks, is always two steps behind the other dads. His wife, beautiful ex-pageant queen Gertie, feels socially ostracized and adrift. Spunky preteen Julie curses like a sailor and her kid brother Larry is called “Robot Boy” by the kids on the block.
Their next-door neighbor and Maple Street’s Queen Bee, Rhea Schroeder—a lonely community college professor repressing her own dark past—welcomes Gertie and family into the fold. Then, during one spritzer-fueled summer evening, the new best friends share too much, too soon.
As tensions mount, a sinkhole opens in a nearby park, and Rhea’s daughter Shelly falls inside. The search for Shelly brings a shocking accusation against the Wildes that spins out of control. Suddenly, it is one mom’s word against the other’s in a court of public opinion that can end only in blood.
A riveting and ruthless portrayal of American suburbia, Good Neighbors excavates the perils and betrayals of motherhood and friendships and the dangerous clash between social hierarchy, childhood trauma, and fear.
If that’s got you intrigued, which I hope it has, then please read on as I have an exclusive extract for you:
118 Maple Street
Friday, July 9
“It’s a hairbrush night,” Rhea Schroeder called up the stairs to her daughter Shelly. “Don’t forget to use extra conditioner. I hate that look on your face when I hit a knot.”
She waited at the landing. Heard rustling up there. She had four kids. Three still lived at home. She had a husband, too, only she rarely saw him. It’s unnatural, being the sole grown-up in a house for twenty-plus years. You talk to yourself. You spin.
“You hear me?”
“Yup!” Shelly bellowed back down. “I HEAR you!”
Rhea sat back down at her dining room table. She tried to focus her attention on the Remedial English Composition papers she was supposed to grade. The one on top argued that the release of volcanic ash was the cheapest and smartest solution to global warming. Plus, you’d get all those gorgeous sunsets! Because she taught college, a lot of Maple Street thought she had a glamorous job. These people were wrong. She did not correct them, but they were absolutely, 100 percent wrong.
Rhea pushed the papers away. Sipped from the first glass of Malbec she’d poured for the night, got up, and scanned the mess out her window.
She couldn’t see the sinkhole. It was in the middle of the park, less than a half mile away. But she could see the traffic cones surrounding it, and the trucks full of fill sand, ready to dump. Though work crews had laid down plywood to cover the six-foot-square gape, a viscous slurry had surfaced, caking its edges. The slurry was a fossil fuel called bitumen, found in deep pockets all over Long Island. It threaded outward in slender seams and was mostly contained within the park, but in places had reached under the sidewalks, bubbling up on neighbors’ lawns. There was a scientific explanation, something about polarity and metal content. Global warming and cooked earth. She couldn’t remember exactly, but the factors that made the sinkhole had also galvanized Long Island’s bitumen to coalesce in this one spot.
All that to say, Sterling Park looked like an oozing wound.
They never did find the German shepherd. Their theory was that a strong current in the freshwater aquifer down there had carried him away. They’d likened it to falling through ice in a frozen pond, and trying to swim your way back to the opening.
He could be anywhere. Even below her feet. Funny to think.
This evening, the crescent was especially quiet. Several families had left town for vacations or to get away from the candy apple fumes. Those who remained, if they were home at all, stayed inside.
Just then, pretty Gertie Wilde emerged from 116’s garage. She carried a haphazardly coiled garden hose, its extra slack spilling down like herniated intestines. Gertie’s big hair was coiffed, her metallic silver eye shadow so glistening that Rhea could see it from a hundred feet away. She stopped when she got to the front yard, hose in hand.
Rhea’s pulse jogged.
Gertie peered inside Rhea’s house, right where Rhea was standing. She seemed frightened and small out there, like a kid holding a broken toy, and suddenly, Rhea understood—Gertie had no outdoor spigot to which to attach her hose. She needed to borrow. But because of the way Rhea had acted at the Fourth of July barbeque, she was afraid to ask.
A thrill rose in Rhea’s chest.
Margie Walsh screwed it up. She came out from the house on the other side of Gertie’s and walked fast to meet her. Waves and smiles. Rhea didn’t hear the small talk, but she saw their laughter. Polite at first, and then relaxed. They hooked the hose, then unrolled a plastic yellow bundle, running it the length of the Walsh and Wilde lawns. Water gushed and sprayed. A Slip ’N Slide. With the temperature lingering at 108 degrees, its water emerged like an oasis in a desert.
Pretty soon, Margie’s and Gertie’s kids came out. Fearless Julia Wilde gave herself ten feet of running buildup, then threw herself against the plastic and slid all the way down until she landed on grass. Charlie Walsh followed. Each took a few turns before they could convince rigid Larry. At last, he did it, too. But Larry, uncoordinated and holding Robot Boy, didn’t build enough momentum. Only slid halfway.
The lawn got torn up. The kids got covered in mud and then hosed themselves off and started over. Tar from the sinkhole stuck to their clothes and skin like Dalmatian motley.
Now that the seal was broken, all of Maple Street opened up and shook loose. The rest of the Rat Pack and some of their parents streamed out. Laughter turned to screams of delight as even the grown-ups joined in.
Rhea watched through her window. The laughter and screams were loud enough that muffled versions of them permeated the glass.
Gertie didn’t know any better. With her central air-conditioning broken, she’d probably gotten used to that slightly sweet chemical scent. The rest of them were stir-crazy. Figured, if a pregnant woman was willing to take the risk, the rest of them were pansies not to go out, too.
But anybody who watches decent science fiction knows that the EPA isn’t perfect. The stuff her neighbors were rolling around in tonight might glue their lungs with emphysema twenty years from now. Even her husband, Fritz, who never had an opinion about anything domestic, had announced that if the hole didn’t get filled like it was supposed to, they ought to pack the family into a short-term rental. He’d crinkled his nose that very first night it happened, grudging fear in his eyes, and said, “When it smells like this in the lab, we turn on the ventilation hoods and leave the room.”
Rhea ought to warn these people. She was obliged, for their safety. But if she did that, they’d think she was a killjoy. They’d think it had to do with Gertie.
She played the conversation out in her head. She’d go out to 116, trespassing on Gertie’s property, and urge them to go home. To take hot showers with strong soap. They’d put down their beers, nod in earnest agreement, wait for her to go away, and then start having fun again. Probably, they wouldn’t say anything mean about her once she was gone. Not openly. But she knew the people of Maple Street. They’d chuckle.
She backed away from her window.
Returned to her papers. Sipped a little more Malbec as she reviewed the next assignment in the pile, which was written in 7-point, Old English font. It was about how the last stolen election had proven that democracy didn’t work. We needed to move into Fascism, only without the Nazis, the student argued. She took out her red pen. Wrote, What???? Nazis = Fascism; they’re like chocolate and peanut butter!
Between the papers, the people outside, her husband at work, and even her children upstairs, Rhea felt very alone right then. Misunderstood and too smart for this world. All the while, Slip ’N Slide laughter surrounded the house. It pushed against the stone and wood and glass. She wished she could let it in.
Good Neighbours is available now through Titan Books as Paperback or Ebook