Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Book Review: The Family Next Door

By Sara Steven

On the quiet street of St Brigid’s Terrace in Dublin, Eileen Murphy lives alone at number 26 with her dog Dora. Virtually a recluse, she keeps herself to herself as she tries to come to terms with her tragic past.

Next door in number 28 lives beautiful Lucy Walsh, her husband Neil and their 5-year-old daughter Anabel. To Eileen, who watches from her window, the Walshes are the perfect family.

But one fateful night, Eileen is pulled into their world and she realises that Lucy Walsh’s life isn’t as perfect as she thought.

With the unexpected help from little Anabel, the women become a lifeline for each other to overcome the demons in their lives.

Through Eileen’s help, Lucy finds the courage to overcome her fears and in aiding Lucy, Eileen is forced to emerge from her solitary world and take baby steps to confront her own past.

As the bonds of friendship change these women forevermore will Lucy find the courage to forge a new life for herself and her daughter and will Eileen find it within herself to forgive for her old mistakes? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

I like how The Family Next Door is told from two different perspectives: first person for Eileen, and third person for Lucy. Even though the reader learns everything they need to know about both primary characters, the first person perspective gives us even more, making the story feel more well-rounded. Initially, I felt privy in knowing that something had happened to Eileen that created her reclusive lifestyle, but we don’t know what. Then she laments over the perfection that is exuded by her next door neighbors, the type of life she had always wished for but never felt she could measure up to.

Appearances are merely that; appearances. Even Lucy believes that she is living the perfect life, until it is anything but. That first night when Eileen makes her way to Lucy’s house becomes a pivotal turning point within the entire story. She is venturing out beyond the confines or what she deems safe–her own home–to assist with the fallout that Lucy experiences, shattering Lucy’s perfected life persona. There is no turning back.

While reading, I felt increasingly frustrated with some of Lucy’s choices, but I understood the realism behind it. It isn’t easy to rectify what actually occurs when someone you love hurts you, and how you think they should be. Despite the pain are the memories and everything she remembers from the past, which seems to negate the present. We all know the right thing she should do, but if she immediately followed in those footsteps, it wouldn’t be real. It’s not so black and white. 

I imagined that Eileen’s background and what she’s been through would mirror Lucy’s situation, so I was surprised to discover it was totally different. But it was enough to resonate with Lucy. The story blooms beyond the relationship between Lucy and her husband, or Eileen’s painful past. It focuses more on the relationship between Lucy and Eileen, how they can lean on one another and help each other to heal, along with the personal growth they experience within themselves. I felt like I was on an emotional rollercoaster, but in the best of ways. A five-star experience!

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US * Amazon UK * Apple

Caroline Finnerty is an Irish author of heart-wrenching family dramas and has compiled a non-fiction charity anthology. She has been shortlisted for several short-story awards and lives in County Kildare with her husband and four young children.

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