The Girl Next Door
  • The Girl Next Door
  • The Girl Next Door

The Girl Next Door

3.7 11
by Elizabeth Noble
     
 

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What makes a house a home?

For Eve Gallagher, home is miles away in England since she and her husband relocated to an apartment building on New York's Upper East Side. And life isn't coming up roses.

What makes a neighbor a friend?

Violet has lived in the building for decades, but she's always kept herself apart, until Eve's loneliness

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Overview

What makes a house a home?

For Eve Gallagher, home is miles away in England since she and her husband relocated to an apartment building on New York's Upper East Side. And life isn't coming up roses.

What makes a neighbor a friend?

Violet has lived in the building for decades, but she's always kept herself apart, until Eve's loneliness touches her heart.

What makes a wife a lover?

Jason Kramer in apartment 6A is no longer sure he loves his wife, but he's head over heels for Rachel Schulman in 6B.

What makes the girl next door the woman of your dreams?

Meeting Emily Mikanowski from 3A turns Trip Grayling's world upside down. It's love at first sight, but he needs help from Charlotte, the shy romance novel addict in 2A, if he's going to get his girl.

What they all have in common is an address, but it is also a home where their lives and secrets intertwine. Come in and enjoy this bittersweet story of friendship and love.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Noble charts the intertwining lives of the residents of a New York City apartment building in her charming love letter to Manhattan. After banker Ed Gallagher's promotion necessitates a move from the U.K. to New York, he and his wife, Eve, are thrilled to find the perfect Upper East Side apartment, though Eve struggles to meet people until she befriends Violet Wallace, an 82-year-old fellow Englishwoman in her building who enchants her with the story of her path to Manhattan. Elsewhere in the building, shiftless trust fund baby Jackson Grayling III has fallen in love with Emily Mikanowski, a stunner living downstairs, while Emily's downstairs neighbor and friend, frumpy librarian Charlotte, works up the nerve to speak to Che, the Cuban doorman. And on the sixth floor, the Kramers and Schulmans, married couples with young children, struggle with two sets of very different marital problems. Noble (The Reading Group) presents her sprawling cast without neglecting them as characters or confusing the reader, and though she's got something of a wooden ear for her younger characters' dialogue, her handle on heartbreak and hopefulness is admirable. (Dec.)
Library Journal
In Noble's (The Reading Group) fifth novel, the girl next door is always more than she seems. In this nearly yearlong chronicle of the lives of the residents of one Manhattan apartment building, she's newly arrived British ex-pat Eve with the workaholic husband; mousy Charlotte, living vicariously through romance novel heroines; sexy and worldly Madison; romance-shy Emily; brittle Kim, throwing herself into motherhood at the expense of her marriage; golden girl Rachael; and Violet, a regal Englishwoman who holds the world at arm's length until the arrival of Eve stirs old wounds and new joys. VERDICT Covering territory familiar to readers of women's fiction, if in slightly condensed form because of multiple, intersecting story lines, the novel features an overly ambitious cast of characters. However, the vivid primary protagonists and dramatic plot twists full of headache and heartache make this a safe bet for fans of Barbara Delinsky and Jane Green.—Amy Brozio-Andrews, Albany P.L., NY
Kirkus Reviews
The highs, lows and heartaches of the residents of an upscale Manhattan apartment building, examined during the course of a few momentous months. When her husband Ed is transferred, self-deprecating Brit Eve Gallagher finds herself both thrilled and terrified at the prospect of starting a new life in New York City. She initially lucks out by finding a gloriously sunny two-bedroom in a fabulous building on the Upper East Side, but discovers that making friends is a far more daunting task than decorating her new digs. Her neighbors are the usual assortment of types. Prematurely dowdy single librarian Charlotte dreams of a romance-novel Mr. Right, while promiscuous hottie Madison has her sights set on Jackson Grayling III (aka Trip), the wealthy young bachelor in 5A. He, meanwhile, yearns for athletic Emily Mikanowski, a natural beauty who works in television and shows little interest in dating anyone, let alone someone as unmotivated as Trip. Anxious stay-at-home mom Kim Kramer is focused on her spoiled toddler Avery to the point of alienating her stockbroker husband Jason, who secretly fancies stunning Rachael Schulman. With her successful career, three great kids and a country house, Rachael seems to have it all, until she finds out husband David is having an affair. A happily nested gay couple and a series of Cuban doormen round out the cast, but Eve makes her first real connection with 82-year-old Violet Wallace, a fellow Englishwoman who arrived in New York as a war bride in 1946. Violet helps ease Eve's homesickness, while revealing the mysteries of her past. She also provides invaluable support when Eve becomes pregnant with her first child and things do not go as planned. Lacking inedge and unapologetically sincere, Noble's latest (Things I Want My Daughter to Know, 2008, etc.) benefits from a winning and vulnerable Everywoman in Eve, though the rest of her characters are a bit of a snooze. Bland, harmless New York City tableau from a chick-lit pro.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781439154830
Publisher:
Touchstone
Publication date:
12/22/2009
Edition description:
Original
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
1,473,886
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Eve

Four Seasons Hotel, East Fifty-Seventh Street

Good morning, New York!" Ed's Robin Williams impression reverberated around Eve's poor head.

Last night, celebrating their new life with dirty Grey Goose martinis in the hotel bar had seemed like the obvious — the only — thing to do. They'd had a few drinks, and a late dinner, and very sexy hotel sex, and about five hours' sleep. This morning, not so much. The dirty Grey Goose martini may be a very New York drink, but Eve was clearly still a very English girl. Dirty was the word. Eve's mouth felt like the proverbial bottom of the parrot's cage.

She pulled the down pillow over her head in an attempt to keep out the bright sunshine pouring in through their twelfth-floor wall of windows, but it was insistent, like Ed, who was now running through his Sinatra repertoire, oblivious to the fact that she might just have to kill him soon. Thou shalt not — not ever — drink three vodka-based cocktails. The eleventh commandment.

The doorbell rang. Ed was obviously in better shape, as usual. It took more than three drinks to fell her husband. He answered the door with a cheery "Good morning!" and admitted their breakfast, brought in by a waiter so discreet that he laid a table, arranged an orchid in a vase and silver domes on porcelain plates, then left again without ever acknowledging the groaning woman-shaped lump under the duvet.

"Come on, lightweight. Breakfast." Ed, who was, she now noticed, already showered and dressed, flipped up the bottom corner of the bedspread, exposing a foot. He squeezed her big toe.

"Ugh."

"Tea?"

"Mmm."

"Wasn't sure what you wanted, and wasn't about to risk waking you up, so I ordered pancakes, bacon, fruit salad, egg-white omelette — "

"Who would ever want to eat an egg-white anything? The yolk's the only fun part of an egg."

"And the only part that will kill you."

Eve sat up grumpily and accepted the cup of tea he proffered. "And so it begins..."

"So what begins?"

"You're turning American. Joining the cholesterol police."

Ed laughed. "So I guess you want the pancakes and bacon?"

"Kill or cure." Eve came to the table and peered under the silver dome on her side of the table.

"I'm hoping for cure. Busy day in prospect..." Ed raised his glass of orange juice in a toast, and clinked it against Eve's cup. "Here's to the new house!"

Except that it wasn't a house. Eve and Ed used to live in a house with a name, on a street with a name. In a house with a garden and a driveway and a garage for a car. Their car. Ed had a shed in the garden. Eve had a job. Eve used to live twenty-five minutes from her sister and her nieces and nephews.

That was then. This was now. She took her tea to the window and looked out at the tall gray buildings and the blue, blue sky. Steam rose from manhole covers, just like in films. She couldn't kick that feeling — like she was herself in a film. But this was real. This was it! They were here...

Two pancakes, three rashers of very crispy bacon, four mugs of tea, and a fifteen-minute power shower later, Eve felt human. Ish. When she emerged from the bathroom that was bigger than her bedroom at home, Ed was on the phone and it was obviously work. She frowned at him. Today was their day.

He raised a conciliatory hand and shrugged apologetically. But he said, "Yep. Right. Yep. I'll be there in" — checking his watch — "half an hour. Forty-five minutes tops. Great." When he'd hung up he came and sat next to her on the bed and put his arm around her shoulders.

She glared at him reproachfully. "You promised."

"I know. I won't be there all day, I promise. Just a couple of hours."

Neither of them believed him.

"You'd better be there when we pick up the keys." That was three p.m.

"Definitely." Ed was pulling on his jacket. "I'll meet you there."

"Okay."

Ed took her face in his hands and kissed her deeply. "I'm going to make love to you in every room tonight."

She crinkled her nose up and sniggered. "Cheeseball. Good job it's a classic four, not a classic six."

"Get you, with your New York Realtor talk."

"Oh, I know all the lingo."

He smacked her rear. "And, FYI, I reckon I could manage a classic six or, indeed, a duplex."

Eve laughed. He probably could, actually. When they'd moved into the cottage, he'd managed every room, the patio table, and the shower, although, truthfully, things had gotten a little halfhearted by the time they'd gotten to the old larder with the freezing cold marble countertop. She'd made him promise they'd christen every house they ever had that way, even the assisted living facility she was confident they'd end up in. He remembered.

One more quick kiss, a groan of regret, and he was gone.

Back to bed then, just for a while.

She couldn't believe she was here. Everything had happened so fast. Four months ago there had been no hint of any of this. Four months ago she'd been looking out the window at her garden, at the deep beds she'd dug the year before, thinking about springtime. She'd loved that garden. And the house. Their first house. A three-bedroom cottage in a village four miles from the center of town. Top of their budget when they'd bought it, it still needed lots of work — the old couple they'd bought it from hadn't done a thing to it in twenty years — so she'd become a rabid weekend DIYer. She'd learned to strip wallpaper, and tile and grout, and over the course of a year or two she'd eradicated all the eighties décor and created a place she truly loved — all white walls and deep sofas. The garden had been the best part and the biggest revelation. She'd never taken the slightest notice of the seasons before. She'd lived in her parents' house, where the garden was somewhere to play and lounge around, in university halls and in flats, where, on hot, sunny days, Clapham Common was the only garden you needed and you ignored it for the other 360 days of the year. But after they bought the house, she drank the first cup of tea of the morning on the little patio off the kitchen, almost every day, drinking in the sights and sounds and smells of the garden all year round.

She'd been on the patio when Ed had come home that day. She was wearing his Barbour and a rainbow-striped woolly hat that she'd had forever and that Ed called "the tea cozy," drinking a mug of Earl Grey, and inspecting her beds, daydreaming of bulbs. She was always home an hour or so before Ed. He worked in London and was at the mercy of the capricious trains. Much as she loved him, that hour was often her favorite of the day. All her own. A good day's work done (mostly). Time to indulge her newfound domesticity. Marinade something. Prune something.

He'd been later than usual, that day. She'd smelled beer on his breath as he kissed her. "Evie." She loved that he called her Evie. He had, since the first day she'd met him, and he was the only person in the world who did, since her mum.

"You've been drinking!"

"Sorry, Mum. Just one."

"Who with?" She put her hands on her hips in a Lucille Ball sort of way, but she was smiling.

"The boys from work."

"The boys" were an amorphous lump of masculinity so far as Eve was concerned. She'd met them, possibly, at the Christmas party, at the Summer Family Fun Day (and the award for most misnamed day goes to...), but they were an indistinct lot — Ben and Dan and Tom and Dave and Tim and...the rest.

"Good day, then?"

"Great day."

Now her curiosity was aroused. "How so?"

"Come inside, babe. It's freezing out here. I want to talk to you." Ed pulled her by both hands, walking backward toward the door. She let him. Inside their kitchen, he went to the fridge, and pulled out a bottle of wine.

"We're celebrating." He grabbed two glasses from the dish rack and poured.

"What?"

"I've got a new job. I've been promoted."

"Ed! That's fantastic! I didn't even know you were up for something."

"Nor did I. Well, not exactly."

Eve picked up the two glasses, handing him one. "You star. Cheers."

"Cheers, Evie." They both drank.

Eve pulled out a chair and sat down, still watching him. He looked so happy. "Tell me all."

"I haven't told you the best bit."

"A raise?" A raise would be great. They could really do with reducing the mortgage. All the spare cash they'd had in the last couple of years had gone to renovations...

"Yes, yes, a raise. A pretty massive one. But that's not it." He widened his eyes, smirking at her.

She smacked his chest playfully. "Stop teasing me, you bugger. Wha-a-at?"

"The job is in New York!" Ed did jazz hands. He looked strangely comical doing jazz hands. The moment was surreal.

"What?"

"New York. The job's in the New York office. Manhattan. Two years, maybe more if we want. New frigging York, Evie! Can you believe it?"

Eve felt like all the air in her lungs had been sucked out. Her cold, garden cheeks were suddenly hot.

Ed stood in front of her, jazz hands frozen. "So talk to me. You look like a fish." He blew out his cheeks, and made ohs with his mouth. "Say something."

"Wow."

He shook her gently by the shoulders. "Say something else."

"New York."

"A whole sentence would be good."

"You took this job?"

Ed's face fell just a little. "Well...I told them I'd need to talk to you first, obviously, but..."

"But?"

"But I said I was sure you'd jump at it. You will, won't you? Jump at it? I mean, it's not like we haven't talked about something like this — "

"We talked about it once, years ago."

"But you were up for it then, weren't you?"

"Well, yes..."

"And nothing's changed, has it?"

"There's the house..."

Was that a flicker of irritation crossing his face? "And we can keep the house, Evie. Of course we can."

"I love the house." She sounded wistful, even to herself.

"I know you do. I love the house, too. We'll keep the house, Evie. They'll rent us a place, sort all of that out. It's a really sweet deal. We'll be much better off. We'll rent it out, of course. Tenants will pay the mortgage. And we'll come back."

"Will we?"

Ed knelt down by her chair and put both arms around her hips. "You don't sound happy like I thought you would, Evie."

She laid her head on top of his, in her lap. "I'm just...it's a bit sudden ...it's a bit of a shock, that's all."

"Not a shock. A surprise. A wonderful, fortuitous, bloody marvelous surprise." He rubbed her hair. "Hey, Evie. We can talk about this as much as you like. We can say no."

She looked at his face, trying to figure out whether or not he meant that. His lovely face. She knew she wouldn't make him say no. Eve wasn't quite sure when it was decided that Ed had the career and she had the job. Or who had decided. But she knew that that's how it was. And so she knew that they would go to New York.

And now she just needed to figure out how to be happy about it.

And so four months later, here she was, (almost) completely happy about it. She was even (almost) a little ashamed of her initial reaction. It wasn't very intrepid of her. This was a huge adventure, wasn't it? A fantastic opportunity. The most exciting city in the world. She wanted to be the sort of woman who grabbed life. Who'd ride a bike downhill without the brakes on, and who'd sit in the front seat on the roller coaster, and who'd stand at the karaoke mike. She'd always wanted to be that sort of woman. And now she could be. This was the perfect place to be that woman. And today was a good day to start...

Perhaps she'd start by calling her sister. Cath had always been that woman. In some ways it made no sense that she was here and Cath was there, married to Geoff. Slightly wet Geoff. Who ever knew what alchemy was at work when two people fell in love? It made no sense, sometimes.

Cath answered on the third ring. She sounded out of breath.

"It's me. Eve."

"Eve! How are you? How's it all going?"

"Oh, you know, it's hell at the Four Seasons. What to eat? What treatment to get at the spa? Just ordering from the pillow menu is exhausting..."

"Shut up. I just cleaned poo out from under my fingernails."

"That's disgusting. How are the poo machines?"

"Smelly. Noisy. Adorable."

"I can hear one now."

"That's George. He wants Cheerios in the car. I've only got a minute, actually, Sis. School run, you know."

"I forgot."

"No worries. Sometimes I forget, and that's much more serious. I've got a sec. How is it, really?"

"Really? A bit weird. Ed's gone to the office, even though he's supposed to be off all day helping me, and I realize I don't know a soul. I'm totally friendless until he meets me later."

"Go shopping. No one can feel lonely in Bloomingdale's. Visa can be your best friend."

Eve laughed. "You're probably right."

"So when do you move in?"

"We get the keys this afternoon. The new furniture should be coming tomorrow. The stuff from England is meant to have cleared customs last week, but I've got to check. So today, I suppose, officially, although we'll sleep at the hotel for another couple of nights."

"No room service in the flat, I suppose."

"In the apartment? No!"

"Listen, hon. I'd really better go. Call me later, tell me again how fabulous it is?"

"Sure. I will. Love to everyone."

"And back. We all miss you like crazy, Eve."

Eve missed her sister, too. She could picture everything about Cath at that moment. George, with his plastic beaker of Cheerios and his untamable blond cowlick; the chaotic kitchen, full of unread newspapers and sticky jars; Cath, tall and willowy and totally yummy mummy.

Suddenly a little tearful, she sniffed and reached for the remote control. Nurse Hathaway and Dr. Doug Ross were arguing again. She lost herself in the County General ER and eventually slipped back into sleep, not waking until the credits were rolling.

Copyright © 2009 by Elizabeth Noble

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