South of Main Street

South of Main Street

South of Main Street by Robert Gately (Contemporary Fiction)

In the fictitious town of Coalsville, Pennsylvania, Main Street divides the “haves” from the “have-nots.” The wealthy, like recently widowed Henry Wolff, live north of Main Street. But Henry is not your typical rich guy. The money came from his wife, and now his younger daughter wants him declared incapable of handling his own affairs in order to keep him from squandering her inheritance.

While this may sound like a dire novel of family feuding, it’s actually more of a Forrest Gump-like story. Henry suffers from a form of post-war PTSD that has him acting childish. His is a simple view of life that he shares with the troubled people he meets, including a boy with an absent mother and abusive father, a young female drug addict, and two homeless people. We watch him interact with people from both sides of Main Street in ways that are wise and compassionate but can be misconstrued as incompetent, if that is one’s goal. Fortunately for Henry, his elder daughter is willing to take on her sister in court.

This is a relatively slow-going book with a predictable ending, but that doesn’t stop it from being a worthwhile, feel-good read. It does contain some minor mistakes that would benefit from a good editing, such as the occasional change in tense from past to present and use of a wrong word. But overall, Robert Gately tells a good uplifting story.

Grandma gives South of Main Street three and a half stars. 3.5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy from the author with a request for an honest review.

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Alternate Side

Alternate Side

Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen (Literary Fiction/Women’s Contemporary Fiction)

Alternate Side is a character-driven slice-of-life story, the type at which Anna Quindlen excels. You get to know her people as though they were friends. As with most of us, their lives have moments of drama among mostly no-big-deal daily stuff, but because you know these people, you’re interested. If, perchance, you can identify with them and their problems, all the better.

Nora Nolan and her husband, Charlie, live in a closely knit New York City neighborhood of comfortably rich people with housekeepers and a shared handyman. They all know each other, socialize at catered neighborhood events, but are not quite friends. In other words, they don’t bare their hearts to one another. Still, they care about each other, and when something happens to one, the others come to help.

After nearly thirty years together, Nora and Charlie have grown apart. Their twins are graduating from college and moving on with their lives, leaving an empty nest. While Nora loves New York City life, Charlie wants to move to a warm climate where he can golf year-round. She has a job she enjoys; he’s not all that happy in his. Little things he does are starting to annoy her. He’s threatened by the possibility that she will take a new position with status greater than his. When an act of violence rocks the neighborhood, she and he see the incident very differently.

Having grown up in a friendly Midwestern neighborhood where block parties were common, I could identify with the measured camaraderie among neighbors. And being of a certain age, I could understand how Nora and Charlie felt. This story also deals with race relations, class privilege, and what are often referred to as first-world problems, yet refrains from passing judgment. If you are looking for fast-paced action , mystery, or romance, this book is not for you. But if you enjoy fine writing, Alternate Side is that.

Grandma gives Alternate Side five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Alternate Side will be released on March 20, 2018, and is available for pre-order.

The Family Next Door

The Family Next Door

The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth (Women’s Fiction/Psychological Thriller)

This book involves five women who live in the upscale neighborhood known as Pleasant Court, where families mingle but also cherish and protect their privacy. Three women – Ange, Fran, and Essie – are married with young children. The new neighbor, Isabelle, is single and childless. Barbara is Essie’s single mom and grandmother to Essie’s little girls. All five women have their secrets and their frustrations, and we get to know them well as they take turns telling this story from their individual points of view.

Sally Hepworth (The Mother’s Promise) brings all of it together in an ending I didn’t see coming. Throughout the story, we’re aware of each woman’s struggles with motherhood, marriage, and men who disappoint in one way or another. We know about their psychological breakdowns, their mistakes, and what wears them out by the end of the day. We watch them grapple with personal demons that require difficult decisions. And running throughout is the question, who is the anonymous, mentally disturbed narrator who has taken someone else’s baby from the hospital?

All in all, it’s an interesting look at the face we put on for others and leaves you wondering what you don’t know about that nice family down the block.

Grandma gives The Family Next Door four stars. 4 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Family Next Door will be released on March 6, 2018 and is available for pre-order.