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In the Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time

In the Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time

4.1 9
by Peter Lovenheim

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A family had vanished, yet the impact on our neighborhood was slight. How could that be? Did I live in a community or just in a house on a street surrounded by people whose lives were entirely separate? Few of my neighbors, I later learned, knew each other more than casually; many didn't know even the names of those a few doors down.


A family had vanished, yet the impact on our neighborhood was slight. How could that be? Did I live in a community or just in a house on a street surrounded by people whose lives were entirely separate? Few of my neighbors, I later learned, knew each other more than casually; many didn't know even the names of those a few doors down.

Editorial Reviews

You may share a wall or a street; you may be able to tell, from the number of cars in their driveway, if their daughter is home from college. But are they truly your neighbors? If you needed help, could you count on them? Ten years ago, Lovenheim noticed television trucks and ambulances outside a neighbor's home. He soon learned that the man who lived there had killed his wife and then himself. Lovenheim is haunted by the fact that he knew so little about this family, who had been his neighbors for seven years. This event spurred Lovenheim to get to know his neighbors, which to him meant spending a full 24 hours in their company as they go about their days and nights. These unusual visits form the basis for his provocative book.

Readers accompany Lovenheim on his sleepovers, meeting a retired surgeon, a single mom battling cancer, a young couple, and others, as well as the local mail carrier and newspaper deliverer. Also woven into the text is research about neighborhood design and community building. Sadly, we learn that Lovenheim's murdered neighbor, sensing she was in danger, called a friend in another town. Would things have been different if she'd felt comfortable enough to phone a neighbor? In the Neighborhood leaves you wondering: How well do I know my neighbors? And should I know them better? Read the book before the film. Julia Roberts has optioned it!

Publishers Weekly - Library Journal
Social history reporting can get dull in the abstract; happily, journalist and family man Lovenheim (Portrait of a Burger as a Young Calf) makes a personal project of his investigation into the disappearance of community in suburban American, learning about the residents of his suburban Rochester, N.Y. street by sleeping over at their houses (his impetus was a murder-suicide on the street that helped reveal the extent to which his neighbors remained strangers). Throughout, Lovenheim's writing is genteel and elegantly detailed, revealing much about his subjects-issues of class, relationships, likes and gripes, obsessions and everyday struggles-that would be easy to miss in broad cultural assessments. His project also exposes the surprising variety of people in a neighborhood that seems, at first glance, a homogenous group of upper-middle-class professionals. Using the sleepover as an innovative sociological lens, Lovenheim provides a smart, from-the-front-lines update on Robert Putnam's suburban-alienation expose Bowling Alone, taking a personal look at what Americans tend to lose by "going about their lives largely detached from those living around them."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Jennifer Howard
What the book lacks in drama—murder-suicide excepted—it makes up for in a disarmingly straightforward approach to its subject. Lovenheim finds that his neighbors have very little to hide. He uncovers no signs of drug or child abuse, no sexual peccadilloes, no criminal rings, just folks trying to live their lives as best they can. What's remarkable is how seldom those lives intersect.
—The Washington Post
From the Publisher
"The people Lovenheim meets have great backstories, and his life is enriched by his efforts. It's impossible to read this book without feeling the urge to knock on neighbors' doors."
-Chicago Sun-Times

"A disarmingly straightforward approach to its subject...Lovenheim does his modest best to create neighborly bonds where none existed, with quiet but real results."
-Washington Post Book World

"It is hard to read this book and not think of your own neighborhood, your own street. Who do you know? Everyone? Anyone? No one at all?"
-Minneapolis Star Tribune

"This book, so gentle and unassuming on the surface, is in fact deeply radical. If we all took its lessons to heart, our world would be a different, and better, place."
-Andrea Barrett, author of Ship Fever and The Air We Breathe

"The appeal of In the Neighborhood is hard to resist, and Lovenheim's interactions with his own neighbours are always interesting...."
-Winnipeg Free Press

"Lovenheim advances ideas about isolation in the modern world, and why a welcoming front porch is needed now more than ever."

"Mr. Lovenheim's 'neighborhood' is a place where no one knows anyone else-like so many neighborhoods today. In this warm and intimate book, he gets to know the strangers who are his neighbors and shows how a community can be transformed by the power of human connections."
-Marc Silver, author of Breast Cancer Husband

"In the Neighborhood is a big book in sheep's clothing: it insists on posing the boldest questions about our everyday American lives, but does so personably and mildly. We accompany this insistently wide-eyed author on a series of neighborhood sleepovers, and come face to face with our own insularity."
-Mark Kramer, co-editor of Telling True Stories and former director of the Nieman Program on Narrative Journalism at Harvard University

"This book will awaken your inner sociologist. In the Neighborhood is an inspirational reminder that for all our collective bemoaning about the loss of community, the solution is only a knock on the door away."
-Prof. Keith N Hampton, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Peter Lovenheim is a journalist whose articles and essays have appeared in the New York Times, USA Today, New York magazine, and other publications. He teaches writing at Rochester Institute of Technology and is also the author of Portrait of a Burger as a Young Calf, a firsthand attempt to understand the food chain, and other books. He lives in Brighton, New York, a suburb of Rochester.

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In the Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Dana_B More than 1 year ago
Mr. Lovenheim's book reads like an appreciative personal essay,one where the reader learns quite a lot about the writer's feelings/thoughts as well as the topic being written about. In writing this book,in chronicling this journey,the author not only achieved a neighborly circle of his own in which to share lives together, but he shows clearly that most people want to know their neighbors-they just don't know where to start, for putting yourself out there is a risky move. This book resonated with me. Not just in the sense of a physical neighborhood, but with making connections overall. Connecting meaningfully with folks in daily life is an intentional pursuit of mine. I firmly believe we're on this planet to support and love one another. Those who scoff at such,I am truly sorry for whatever events have happened in life to make you feel that way and I hope you'll work to overcome such-I still unwaveringly believe that we're all in this together, that our actions every one are a fiber in the fabric of life, of lives we share paths with. In The Neighborhood is a humorous as well as thought-provoking book about real life--now go talk to your closest neighbor, have a cup o' coffee/glass o' tea, start something!
geokatgrl More than 1 year ago
Having done my graduate studies in urban planning and development, I picked this book up with an academic mind. What I found was a heart. I'm an intensely personal person, but at some level I still want to feel that I am part of a larger community. Coming from a smaller town where everyone knew each other, sometimes too well, I thought it would be nice to be anonymous. Reading this book I found that I missed the closeness of neighbors, with the spontaneity of an evening gathering in the front yards on a warm summer night. My one complaint about the book is that it is based in a very affluent neighborhood, and the issues one faces in a poorer neighborhood create more (sometimes dangerous)obstacles to getting to know each other. Still, very thought provoking and heart touching. The author's essay style still manages to bring life to the characters. Highly recommended!
EMOsborne More than 1 year ago
I loved reading In the Neighborhood. In fact, I could not put it down. I began the book on a Sunday morning, read it on and off until 11 that night, had foot surgery early on Monday morning, and despite the painkillers, had to finish it by Tuesday night. In the past, only Grisham would have held my attention in this manner but now I have to add Lovenheim to the list. This book is a compelling narrative as to how we tend to live today. I am sad to say that I live in a nice neighborhood but only know the neighbor on the right. I don't know the other neighbors. By contrast, growing up on a very modest street in my hometown with most of the houses no larger than 900-1200 square feet, Mandy Lane felt like a family. We played everyday with our best friends who lived next door or just down the block, we picnicked and swam together, the adults went out socially or spent time in each other's houses, the fathers took turns mowing the lawn in the cul-de-sac, the mothers had a gratis babysitting club in which they traded hours so the kids could always be left with moms they knew, and at dusk, with the parents sitting out on the front porches watching, talking, and maybe having a beer as we kids went up and down the street on our bikes, it was bliss. Sometimes we misbehaved and the infractions were not missed by our own parents or others who had no problem pointing out our flaws. But it was all done with good intentions and I wish now that our kids knew what it was like to live in a such safe and caring community. After reading this book, I am moved to do three things: First, I am going to organize a small gathering of immediate neighbors to get to know them, second, I am going to try and urge developers to start thinking about bringing back front porches, and third, I am going to recommend this book to all of my friends and family, including those on Facebook and LinkedIn. Life is too short to remain in this type of self-absorbed shell we've constructed for ourselves over the past 20 years or so. I think Peter Lovenheim has wittingly or unwittingly started a social revolution of the finest order. His book is a must read.
Cal_Nan More than 1 year ago
The book weaves together a portrait of an upscale neighborhood whose residents are very detached from one another. Through the efforts of the author, over time the lives of some of the people become very entwined and the experience enriches their world. It can inspire us to become more compassionate toward those we live with, but do not know.
NYClawyer More than 1 year ago
This is a compelling blend of narrative and sociology. As the author tried to re-discover his neighborhood and meet the people who live around him, we are forced to think about what we sacrifice in order to achieve our comfortable lives. On one level you will come o feel as though you know Lou, Deb and the other denizens of Sandringham Road, but you will also regret that we have lost the ability to meet the Lous and Debs next door. Do we blame a lack of communal space or modern conveniences such as air conditioning and television? Or, is it just our own indifference? Read this book and decide for yourself.
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