The Neighbor's Secret: A Novel
by Alison L. Heller

Published: 2021-10-05T00:0
Hardcover : 336 pages
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“Addictive, suspenseful and masterfully written...will delight fans of Big Little Lies.” --Michele Campbell

“[A] witty, hyperlocal mystery…With a light, Liane Moriarty-esque touch...” ?New York Times

L. Alison Heller, whose work has been praised by Liane Moriarty as "warm, ...

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“Addictive, suspenseful and masterfully written...will delight fans of Big Little Lies.” --Michele Campbell

“[A] witty, hyperlocal mystery…With a light, Liane Moriarty-esque touch...” ?New York Times

L. Alison Heller, whose work has been praised by Liane Moriarty as "warm, witty…refreshingly true to life,” explores the ultimate sacrifices of parenting in The Neighbor’s Secret, a propulsive and juicy novel filled with gripping twists and instantly recognizable characters.

How well do you really know your neighbors?

With its sprawling yards and excellent schools, Cottonwood Estates is the perfect place to raise children. The Cottonwood Book Club serves as the subdivision’s eyes and ears, meeting once a month for discussion, gossip, and cocktails. If their selections trend toward twisty thrillers and salacious murder mysteries, it’s only because the members feel secure that such evil has no place in their own cul-de-sacs.

Or does it?

What happened to Lena’s family fifteen years ago was a tragic accident, and she will never admit otherwise. Devoted wife and mother Annie refuses to acknowledge?even to herself?the weight of a past shame. And new resident Jen wants friends, but as always, worry about her troubled son gets in the way.

When late-night acts of vandalism target the women of the book club in increasingly violent and personal ways, they will be forced to decide how far to go to keep their secrets. At least they all agree on what’s most important: protecting their children at any cost?even if it means someone has to die.

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Discussion Questions

At a critical moment in the book, Jen considers the “painful impossibility of protecting a child.” What does this phrase mean in the context of the parents and children in the book and their relationships?

"Jen did not want to care what her neighbors thought.” What is the role of the opinions of others on Jen’s thoughts and actions in the book? Do you think such focus is helpful or detrimental (or both)?

Throughout the book, each of the three main women vigilantly guards secrets. What do they sacrifice by making this choice, and what do they gain?

Lena convinces herself that through “self-imposed house arrest” she is paying sufficient penance for past crimes. Do you think there are pathways for justice outside of the legal system? Have the women of Cottonwood succeeded or failed in their attempts to find them?

What role does the book club play in the lives of its members? How do the book themes and monthly discussions reflect the community’s concerns? Their values?

Throughout the book, Jen struggles with a perceived conflict between protecting Abe and being a “good citizen.” Would you have made different choices than she does? How do you reconcile a parent’s obligations to their child with their obligations to their community?

On page 52, Annie wonders whether Lena’s traumatic past has changed her essential nature. How do Lena’s regrets about the past inform the decisions she makes during the year over which the book takes place?

One of Harriet’s questions for the May book club meeting references how in Greek Mythology, prophecies can create “blind spots” for characters trying to avoid their fate. What blind spots does Annie create for herself in regards to Laurel?

Many of the characters note that Cottonwood Estates is an exceptionally safe neighborhood, perfect for raising children. What are some of the character’s individual reactions to the perceived threat of the vandalism? How do the acts of vandalism stress the neighborhood’s myth of safety?

Deb self-congratulates readers as being “the gold standard of humanity.” She and Annie are obviously 100 percent correct that readers are the best people. What are some of the benefits that reading and/or book club discussions have brought to your own life?

How do the women in the book relate to the men in their lives? Generally and individually, do the men serve as stabilizing or destabilizing forces?

What are the most dangerous aspects of living in Cottonwood? Do you think, given human nature, that it’s possible to have an entirely safe community?

After Jen deliberately breaks a platter, she feels better for an instant, but then “came the exhausted realization that no one else was going to clean it up.” How do the women of Cottonwood express their anger? In general, how do you think society expects women to channel their anger and disappointment?

The ladies of Cottonwood pay close attention to the quality and quantity of food and drink at their social gatherings. How do the snacks and drinks play a role in establishing community and belonging? How do the offerings support notions of cohesion and individuality?

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