‘A Good Neighborhood’
Oak Knoll, a racially diverse suburban North Carolina neighborhood of modest ranch houses and mature trees, is upended when Brad Whitman, who is white, builds a mansion for his family on the lot behind the home of Valerie Alston-Holt, a black professor of forestry and ecology, and her musically gifted, biracial 18-year-old son, Xavier. Whitman has gained local fame as a TV-commercial star for his successful HVAC company, and he has an ego to match his celebrity.
Neighborhood tension smolders when it becomes evident that the new construction has damaged a centuries-old oak tree on the Alston-Holt property. When romance blossoms between Xavier and Brad’s step-daughter Juniper, who, with her parents’ encouragement, has taken a purity pledge, events spiral out of control until reaching a tragic conclusion.
With the Oak Knoll neighborhood acting as the narrator, author Therese Anne Fowler negotiates a host of social issues including prejudice, class, gentrification, teen sex, sexual violence, environmental destruction and racism in both the justice system and the media. Book discussion groups will find no end of topics to explore in this thoughtful and timely novel. ♦
— Review by Sally Wisdom
In “Cactus League,” Emily Nemens tells the story of Jason Goodyear, star outfielder for the Los Angeles Lions, as he reports for spring training. Goodyear has won many accolades in his professional life, but his personal life is falling apart. Nemens focuses on all the people who are pulled into the orbit of someone like Goodyear. Through agents, coaches and broadcasters, the reader watches the rise of young talent and the seeming fall of once great stars. “Cactus League” is 100 percent a baseball book but is expertly crafted to showcase all that happens off the field. It is the perfect book to read between innings and during pitching changes this season. ♦
— Review by Hunter Gillum