Thy Neighbor

Thy Neighbor

3.0 3
by Norah Vincent
     
 

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From the New York Times bestselling author, a first novel as spellbinding as her acclaimed nonfiction

At thirty-four, Nick Walsh is a broken, deeply cynical man. Since the violent deaths of his parents thirteen years earlier, he has been living alone in his childhood home in the suburban Midwest, drinking, drugging, and debauching himself into

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Overview

From the New York Times bestselling author, a first novel as spellbinding as her acclaimed nonfiction

At thirty-four, Nick Walsh is a broken, deeply cynical man. Since the violent deaths of his parents thirteen years earlier, he has been living alone in his childhood home in the suburban Midwest, drinking, drugging, and debauching himself into oblivion. A measure of solace is provided by his newly found relationship with Monica, a mysterious woman who seems to harbor as many secrets as he does.

Obsessed with understanding the circumstances surrounding his parents’ deaths and deranged by his relentless sorrow, Nick begins a campaign of spying on his neighbors via hidden cameras and microphones he has covertly installed in their houses. As he observes with amusement and disbelief all the strange, sad, and terrifying things that his neighbors do to themselves and to one another, and as he, in turn, learns that he is being stalked, he begins to slowly unravel the shocking truth about how and why his parents died.

At once unsettling and moving, humorous and horrifying, Thy Neighbor explores the nature of grief, the potential isolation of suburban life, and who we really are when we think no one is watching. What readers and critics have admired in Norah Vincent’s nonfiction is completely unleashed in this vivid and provocative novel.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Vincent’s disappointing fiction debut, narrator Nick, equally misanthropic and self-hating, drinks all night and feels sorry for himself all day (“Depressed? Destroyed? Crushed beneath the boot heel of fate? Why, yes. I suppose so”)—not without cause, perhaps, considering the horrific family crime that derailed his comfortable suburban existence more than a decade ago. He continues to reside in the home in which the crime happened, and to distract himself from his misery, he enlists a cable TV installer to plant hidden recording equipment in his ill-behaved neighbors’ bedrooms, bathrooms, and anywhere else that might provide a chance for Nick to see something awful (which, of course, he does). When Nick, desperate to get out of his own head, befriends his one decent neighbor, Mrs. Bloom, a widow with no family who suffered a tragedy years ago, he discovers the heartbreaking event that links her life and his. But what part in all this does the dangerously unhappy family next door play? We’ll have to wait and see. Vincent’s prose is choppy and overwrought, the characters for the most part unpleasant. This is a disappointing foray into psychological fiction from a journalist known for the high-concept nonfiction books Self-Made Man and Voluntary Madness. (Aug.)
Library Journal
At 34, Nick Walsh still lives in his Midwest suburban childhood home—though his parents died violently 13 years earlier and he's been self-medicating since. As he spies on his neighbors, using cameras and microphones he has surreptitiously installed, he begins to understand what happened to his parents. Then he learns that someone is stalking him. This first novel by the author of nonfiction best sellers like Self-Made Man: One Woman's Year Disguised as a Man sounds at once spooky and thought-provoking and should attract some attention.
Kirkus Reviews
For any reader still suffering from the delusion that suburbia is Eden, this debut novel explores the sinister side, where "a dark shadow lay just on the other side of the picket fence." Though Vincent has attracted attention with her nonfiction (Self-Made Man: One Woman's Year Disguised as a Man, 2006, etc.), this book will challenge the reader to get a handle on just what sort of novel it is, and it reads as if its author wrestled with a similar challenge. At its most clichéd, it's a social indictment of modern suburbia--its broken families, its secrets behind those manicured lawns, its desperate promiscuity, its obsession with Facebook. But it's also a whodunit, or at least a whydunit, as narrator Nick Walsh, an alcoholic, unemployed writer in his mid-30s, attempts to solve the mystery of his parents' murder-suicide. Why did Nick's father kill his mother and then himself? Was the unhinged Nick more responsible than he lets on, or even understands? Is he criminal or casualty or both? Nick identifies a little too much with Hamlet, while recognizing that "Any spoiled kid who has a vaguely philosophical bent, serious daddy issues, and a bleak outlook on life has thought of himself as Hamlet and thought himself mighty profound and soulful for doing so." The novel (or Nick) tends to deal in generalizations and stereotypes ("You know the breed."), while reducing practically every supporting character to a plot device. "How many horrible things are going on right now in any one of these houses?" he asks, though he is in a better position than most to know, since he has had cameras and microphones installed in the houses of his neighbors, which he monitors from his basement (again, more plot device than plausible). Ultimately, another mystery emerges, though the savvy reader is likely to untangle a crucial question of identity well before clueless Nick does. The results fall through the categorical cracks, with the book succeeding neither as page-turning mystery nor as sharp social criticism.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670023745
Publisher:
Viking Adult
Publication date:
08/02/2012
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.26(w) x 9.18(h) x 1.08(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Praise for Thy Neighbor

"Norah Vincent will make you laugh while she is breaking your heart, and make you feel pity as you recoil in disgust. At once a misanthropic rant, a voyeuristic free for all, and a philosophic thriller, Thy Neighbor is a book that you will tear through in a few days and chew on for a long time thereafter. It's a heady and wonderful read." —Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story

“One of our smartest and most original journalists has changed hats, and the new one fits her perfectly. A raging, jolting, arrestingly hard-edged novel of paranoia and revenge in the suburbs, Thy Neighbor crackles with ferocious energy and virtuosic phrasemaking. If you go for noir, prepare to be plunged into the desperate darkness of a world full of lost souls and lost hope—but keep one eye peeled for the glimmer of light at the far end of the tunnel.” —Terry Teachout

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