The Good Neighbor

The Good Neighbor

5.0 1
by William Kowalski
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

When Francie and Colt Hart drive past an abandoned 150-year-old farmhouse in rural Pennsylvania, they both fall head-over-heels in love with it -- but for entirely different reasons. Colt, an ambitious, hard-charging stock trader, sees it as a potential showcase for his wealth. Francie, long dependent on antidepressants, hopes it will inspire her to resume the

See more details below

Overview

When Francie and Colt Hart drive past an abandoned 150-year-old farmhouse in rural Pennsylvania, they both fall head-over-heels in love with it -- but for entirely different reasons. Colt, an ambitious, hard-charging stock trader, sees it as a potential showcase for his wealth. Francie, long dependent on antidepressants, hopes it will inspire her to resume the literary life she abandoned when she married Colt ten years before; perhaps, she thinks, it will save their faltering marriage. But the more they learn about the house, and especially the tragic history of its previous occupants (whose descendants are their new neighbors), the more it threatens to drive them apart.

This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Better living through chemistry. That's what Francie Hart, the Stepford wife-like protagonist of this melodramatic novel by Kowalski (Eddie's Bastard, etc.), thought she was getting by taking Benedor to treat her manic depression. But on a trip with her husband, Colt, from their home in Manhattan to visit their newly purchased country house, she runs out of pills. As the drug's effects wear off, Francie realizes that the chemicals had been stifling her natural creative powers as a poet, and that the life she was leading as a bored, wealthy urban housewife was unfulfilling. That shift in clarity is the linchpin of the novel, which chronicles the tense, awkward unraveling of the Harts' nearly 10-year marriage. Kowalski pumps up the plot by adding a parallel series of intense, often violent flashbacks focusing on the Musgroves, the family that built the Hart's country home 150 years earlier. Not even a whirlwind of outlandish developments-from grave desecration and fratricide to space travel and kidnapping-are enough to make up for the novel's one-dimensional characters, however. Colt is a comically arrogant stock broker, while Francie is the stereotypical tortured artiste who just wasn't made for this cruel world. Kowalski's vigorous storytelling will keep the pages turning, but it's hard to muster much sympathy for Francie and Colt's struggles and redemption. Agent, Anne Hawkins at John Hawkins & Assoc. (Dec. 1) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In his fourth novel (after The Adventures of Flash Jackson), Kowalski tells the story of Francie and Coltrane Hart, who buy a large, 150-year-old house in rural Pennsylvania, initially as a retreat from their life in Manhattan. The new environment appeals greatly to Francie, an intelligent woman longing to revive a talent for poetry that's been dormant since she began taking psychotropic medication. For Colt, a successful stock trader whose main pleasure in life is work, the house is a way to impress his co-workers. The history of their new abode's original tenants is revealed in physical remnants and via nearby neighbor Randy Flebberman, who has looked after the place for the 25 years that it has been uninhabited. While Francie and Flebberman work to befriend each another, Colt remains difficult and insensitive. Ultimately, a clash of values occurs, with dramatic and enlightening results. Kowalski, a gifted storyteller, pulls the reader in, making this book hard to put down. His use of historical digressions also creates a compelling story-within-a-story. While the dialog at times seems mundane and clich d, the characters do rise above stereotypes, and Kowalski succeeds in creating a novel that flows effortlessly. Recommended for all public libraries.-Maureen Neville, Trenton P.L., NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An engaging if overwritten tale about a Manhattan couple changed by a house in the country. On a Sunday drive, Coltrane and Francie Hart, a severely mismatched pair (she's a medicated manic-depressive and lapsed poet; he's a Type-A stock trader) stumble on their dream house. Francie sees it as a place to resume writing poetry; Colt as a weekend spot for entertaining colleagues. On moving day, Francie realizes she's forgotten her medication and decides to try life without it. Implausibly, the only result is that her judgment is clearer-and she begins to see Colt for the unfeeling monster he is. When Francie discovers the diary of Marly Musgrove, the mid-19th-century woman of the house, she realizes there's a cemetery in back filled with Musgrove bodies. The result: Colt insists they be removed, angering a next-door neighbor who's a relative of the buried family. The neighbor kidnaps Colt and forces him to collect the displaced remains from a junkyard. Colt ends up in the hospital, where morphine-induced dreams about his own judgment day lead him to an extreme and unlikely turn. He helps his dying father get out of prison (after spending the last several years pretending he was dead); drops the charges against the neighbor; and apologizes to Francie. Colt is the novel's weakest link, and, unfortunately, gets the most attention; by the time he turns over a new leaf, he's already been portrayed as so emotionally detached that it's difficult to believe (or care about) his new self. Throughout, the Musgroves' tragedy-laden family history, including a well-paced revelation about a murder in the family, is skillfully woven into the story, and serves as an interesting backdrop to Francie andColt's domestic trials. But Kowalski's eye for detail and character is so much stronger in the Musgrove passages that one wishes the Harts were nearly as believable and compelling. An uneven fourth outing by Kowalski (The Adventures of Flash Jackson, 2003, etc.), with a unique and nicely textured historical subplot that's outweighed by the plodding tone and somewhat convoluted main story.
East Valley Tribune
“SOMEWHERE SOUTH OF HERE is one of the sweetest–tempered books around.”
Gail Godwin
“A grand debut. Eddie’s Bastard is a beguiling blend of narrative con brio, human-heartedness, and zany surprises.”
People Magazine
"The 28 year-old author gives his first novel an appealing Dickensian flavor."
People
“The 28 year-old author gives his first novel an appealing Dickensian flavor.”
Globe & Mail (Toronto)
"A book with characters that sing with life, dialogue that is lovely and real and images that resonate."
Booklist
“It is hard to resist the feel–good mood that Kowalski creates.”
The Providence Sunday Journal
“Sheer enchantment.”
New York Times Book Review
Exhuberant...Kowalski is a talented stylist.
The Guardian
“[Kowalski] has the knack of making you care for his characters.”
Globe and Mail (Toronto)
“A book with characters that sing with life, dialogue that is lovely and real and images that resonate.”
Baltimore Sun
“Somewhere South of Here has a large heart and disarming voice.”
San Antonio Express News
“Kowalski is a gifted storyteller who deserves a following.”
The Tampa Tribune-Times
“Kowalski has a gift for storytelling.”
The Daily Record
“Atmospheric, emotional and beautifully eloquent, Kowalski weaves an engrossing story.”
The Observer
“The story is enchanting as the house. The plot is powerful…it surges forwards with tremendous pace and vigour.”
Tulsa World
“A mesmerizing debut...skillfully crafted and highly imaginative.”
America Magazine
“A notable literary debut...Here’s one satisfying novel by a writer of great promise.”
London Times
“Vividly impressionistic prose.”
Rocky Mountain News
“Kowalski is adept at keeping the story tight and moving at a comfortable pace.”
Buffalo News
“This is a mature novel by an unassuming writer. Kowalski is the real deal.”

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061952685
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
06/02/2009
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
610,598
File size:
1 MB

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

The Good Neighbor

Chapter One

Going Home

In the morning, the river seemed flat and still. At this early hour, there was no depth to it; it was as if one could bend down and pinch the water between thumb and forefinger and just peel it away, like a bandage, and underneath, the earth would be dry. There would be bones down there, and other secrets, too, whispering of the things that had already happened in that place, as well as things that were to come — but they wouldn't have known any of this, not yet.

They came around that last bend in the road, where the bluff ends and the river plain begins, and the valley opened up before them like a drawing from a long-forgotten children's book. There was the house on one side of the road, and the thin, silent river on the other. Growing along the river were trees in profusion — Francie saw wise sycamores, tentative birches, and weeping willows, as well as several sprightly young oaks and one stately old one. In their brilliant headdresses, they seemed to her like torches that had been stuck in the earth and left there to glower against the ragged gray belly of the sky. It was fall, the best time of the year in that part of the world.

Later, like jealous explorers, they would argue about who had seen the house first, Francine or Coltrane. It was difficult to determine, because the house wasn't the only thing to come to the eye once one had swung around the bend. There was too much else to look at. There were the rumpled mountains in the distance, for example, unstriking in either height or appearance, but lending a softening distraction to the scene, as if they were not realbut a background image done in paint or chalk. They looked like something you could jump into, Francie thought, like the park scene in Mary Poppins. Also, there was the river, and all around them, the broad, fecund fields, whose varying greenness was still defiant and bright, so early was it still in this new season of dying. There was the road, which unspooled over the hilltop in the foreground like a runaway ribbon. But, really, it was the trees that got you first, with their colors of priestly saffron and Martian red. Francie would later tell Colt that he could not possibly have seen the house first, because he was driving, and it was tucked away on her side of the car. She let him have credit for discovering the river, because she didn't care about the river. She only cared about the house, and from the moment she saw it — it really was she who saw it first, though they both exclaimed about it at the same time — it was as if she'd never cared about any other place in her life until now.

"Pull over!" said Francie, although Colt was already doing it.

They parked at the side of the road, not daring the driveway, just looking up at the house. Then, after they'd sat in silence for several moments, she said to her husband, "I'd love to live here someday."

She expected him to make fun of her for this, but instead, to her astonishment, he said:

"Yeah, so would I."

One could see that this house was old, cut patiently by hand from living hardwood and frozen stone. There was a wraparound porch, ornamented with Victorian-style gingerbread cutouts and a swing on a chain, but the gingerbread was new and pretentious, clearly out of place. Whoever had put it there was trying too hard, Francie thought. If it was up to her, she'd take it down. There were three stories, plus what looked to be an attic, or a half-story of some sort. A small round window hinted that it might be interesting up there.

"That's where they kept the demonic stepchild," said Colt. "Until it killed all of them in their sleep."

"Shut up," said Francie. "Don't ruin it." Like you ruin everything else, she thought.

"Can a place like this actually be empty?" Colt wondered.

Timidly, they got out of the car and headed across the vast front lawn. Nobody came out to see what they wanted. No dogs barked. They went up the steps, Francie first, fearless now, and she pounded on the door. Without waiting for an answer, she went to one of the windows and put her face up to it, shading her eyes from the glare on the wrinkled old glass. She already knew that everyone was gone.

"Don't be so nosy," said Colt. "Maw and Paw will come after us with a shotgun."

"It's vacant," said Francie. "Nobody lives here."

She showed Colt the sitting room. Clean outlines on the walls and floor proved that it had been occupied in exactly the same way for a long time, and then had suddenly been emptied all at once, like a sink whose plug had been pulled.

"They were all murdered," Colt said darkly. "I can tell."

"They were not," said Francie. Normally it worked when Colt was trying to scare her, but this time she knew he was lying. "It's got a ... a feel to it. Alive. They liked it here."

"They? They who?"

"Everyone. Right down to the cats," she said. "Even the mice were happy."

"I wonder if it has termites," said Colt. "Probably does."

Without bothering to stop and ask each other what they were doing, they wandered around to the back.

The Good Neighbor. Copyright (c) by William Kowalski . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Read More

What People are saying about this

Gail Godwin
“A grand debut. Eddie’s Bastard is a beguiling blend of narrative con brio, human-heartedness, and zany surprises.”
East Valley Tribune
“SOMEWHERE SOUTH OF HERE is one of the sweetesttempered books around.”

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >