The Good Neighbour, by Beth Miller

The Good Neighbour, by Beth Miller

Minette has been having a tough time with her neighbours so, when they move out, she’s delighted to find that the new family are immediately warm and friendly. Minette pops round to welcome them, and Cath asks her who else lives in the street. Although she’s been there for about a year, Minette’s knowledge is limited:

‘We’re next to you, obviously, that’s me, Abe, and Tilly. Priya’s next to me, she’s really nice, Indian family with kids and her mother living with them. Then opposite, number 36, is Kirsten, who I know because she’s a cranial osteopath and she’s doing a few sessions with Tilly.’

‘Wow, she has her own osteopath already, impressive.’

God’s sake, Minette, first mortgages now baby therapies. Cath would think she was a total airhead. She said quickly, ‘Oh, Tilly’s just been having a bit of trouble sleeping so, you know, it’s supposed to help. Worth a try. Anyway, next to Kirsten is a student house. Then on your other side from us is, well, er, Liam.’

Cath grinned. ‘Er Liam, blush blush?’

Soon, Cath has networked her way through the rest of the street, and is planning a housewarming party. Her energy seems limitless, even though she’s managing life with two children, one of them in a wheelchair, and no husband. He is, she says, a long-distance lorry driver working abroad. Her son, Davey, has a rare condition, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and his sister Lola suffers from multiple and severe allergies. But Cath doesn’t let this get her down. Instead, she runs marathons to raise money for research, and is in training for a triathlon. For Minette, stuck at home with baby Tilly and struggling to cope with the boredom, Cath is a lifesaver, especially when she offers to babysit from time to time. She encourages Minette to start running, giving her back some freedom and purpose. And she’s very understanding when it comes to Minette needing a bit of free time to… no, that would be saying.

The novel is told through the alternating and overlapping narratives of Minette, Cathy and Davey. Although I’ve never been even the littlest bit tempted to follow a Gina Ford schedule, there was a lot in Minette that I recognised, and I sympathised with her, shouted a bit, and sometimes cringed at her decisions. Davey is a triumph, his voice pitched to perfection. And Cath, with her relentless cheer and bulldozer approach, is compelling, even when… but that would be saying as well.

I loved Beth Miller’s previous book, When We Were Sisters, but I recently told someone that I loved this book even more. When they asked me why that was, I struggled for an answer. When We Were Sisters is big and warm and messy, with a wide cast and multiple time frames. The Good Neighbour has equally compelling, if fewer, characters, a restricted setting and and a tight timeline, all of which add to the tension. The voices are beautifully maintained, and the plotting is exquisite. It hooked me in, kept me reading, and left me with a big satisfied oof of enjoyment, a feeling intensified by the nicely judged loose ends I was left to fiddle with. Read them both, that’s my advice.

Beth Miller

 

 

You can find Beth’s website here, and she’s @drbethmiller on Twitter

The Good Neighbour (Ebury Press) is out on September 10th, and I’m thrilled to be the blogtour host on that very special day –  hurrah and where is the bunting?! Anyway, Beth has written a fab post for my Not The Guardian Family Section. Do come along for a publication day visit!

 

The Good Neighbour blog tour

 

 

 

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