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A Gracious NeighborA Gracious Neighbor by Chris Cander
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The style and voice of this novel are very well done. We’ve got an excellent Deep POV here—something enjoyable for readers and a great learning tool for authors to study. We have an unusual form of unreliable narrator who considers herself, for example, to take great care of her house, yet later on we see that it’s really not in the great shape she made us think in the beginning; she’ll go somewhere public and then, well into an interaction with another person, we’ll find out she’s dressed like a total mess in the most bizarre clothes, something she didn’t mention to us earlier. All of this goes to show her obsession with her next door neighbor, but it’s also about her herself and how she wants to appear to others.

The biggest problem with this book that I think has caused a good number of the bad reviews is that the genre isn’t consistent or mixed well. For about the first 50% of the book, it seems squarely in women’s fiction. Then from about 50-90% of the book, it’s suspense. Then 5% is mystery, then the final 5% is women’s fiction again. This is definitely confusing and, after all that heavy suspense and the mystery that seem to be going somewhere major, leads to a bit of disappointment with the ending being flatter and less exciting and less certain than expected based on the suspense. I do think this strange mix of genres—you can almost mark exactly where each genre comes in—was a mistake because of the disappointment it causes with the ending. It’s like the book has a big crescendo all the way until the last maybe 10%, and then it’s not a natural decrescendo, it’s a steep fall off a cliff face. Things that normally happen in the first half of a book happened almost at the end. It was an off-kilter choice.

I still gave this four stars because of the great use of Deep POV and how good the suspense and unpredictability were.

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