Thursday, April 1, 2021

"Good Neighbors"

Sarah Langan grew up on Long Island, in a town called Garden City, but not on a crescent bordering a park. She got her MFA in creative writing from Columbia University, and also received her Master’s in Environmental Health Science/Toxicology from New York University. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughters.

She’s received three Bram-Stoker awards, and her work has often been included in best-of-the year lists and anthologies. She’s a founding board member of the Shirley Jackson Awards, and works in both film and prose.

Langan applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Good Neighbors, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Good Neighbors, my b-plot tweens, called the rat pack, are in the middle of Sterling Park on a swelteringly hot summer day in 2027, thanks to global warming. They're overlooking an eerie sinkhole, even though their parents told them to stay away from it:
Julia giggled. "Sucker! Our parents are down there."

"Doing what?" Charlie asked.

Julia shook her head. "Worrying about the wrong things. It's all they know how to do."

Dave kicked the board. "I really wish they were down there. I'd have the house to myself."

Julia pictured her Beauty Queen mother down at the bottom of that sinkhole, pregnant and sweating and ringing her nervous hands. Square your shoulders! Smile! Go put on a bra so nobody can see your business! If a grown man ever talks to you, just scream. He's got no business talking to you. Are you getting along with the neighbors? Don't make yourself unpleasant, Julia! These people are so important!... Did you bring Larry? Don't you know he's your responsibility?

She pictured her dad down there, too. Playing sad songs and walking slow and sad like every day he woke up as Julia and Larry's father instead of as a rock star was a disappointment.

"Let's throw 'em down. Then we'll take over. We'll run the world."

"I like my parents!" Charlie cried.

"I like mine, too," Julia answered, "But they still suck."

That was when the only tranquility they'd forged that summer broke.

Shelly and the rest of the rat pack came howling back.
I think this page sets up the plot pretty well. The adults are afraid of the wrong things, and the kids are on the verge of inheriting a messed-up world. They're literally on the brink of disaster, as represented by the sinkhole. Julia is the main kid-character, and I think we can see here the distinction between herself and her love interest, Charlie. He sees his parents as perfect. Julia doesn't have that luxury.

Also on this page, we learn about Shelly, Julia's best friend-turned-enemy. This relationship mirrors the adult relationships, where Julia's mom Gertie and Shelly's mom Rhea were also best friends, who became enemies. The tragedy of this book is about ten pages away, and it's used by the adults as a pretext to attack the entire Wilde family, who, with their Brooklyn accent and cheap house, represent a downward economic spiral. They're convenient scapegoats to attack, because the real problem is too big.
Visit Sarah Langan's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Keeper.

My Book, The Movie: The Missing.

--Marshal Zeringue