Thursday, July 21, 2022

"The Perfect Neighborhood"

Liz Alterman is the author of a young adult novel, He’ll Be Waiting. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, McSweeney’s, and other outlets. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and three sons where she spends most days microwaving the same cup of coffee and looking up synonyms. When she isn't writing, she's reading.

Alterman applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Perfect Neighborhood, and reported the following:
From page 69:
But our home was in the city, where we could get falafel or a pedicure at two in the morning, where a short walk or subway ride was all that separated us from live music and theater. We weren’t even thirty, we were still figuring it out. We didn’t belong in this area filled with toddlers, found cats, and Stepford dogs.

“We could get a dog!” Chris exclaimed, as if reading my mind.

He beamed, happy, purposeful. How could I not at least look around? I’d “ooh” and “aah” over giant bedrooms and walk-in closets, and then let him come to the obvious conclusion that we weren’t suburb material—at least not yet.

“Sure, what the heck? I said, taking his hand and pulling him toward our car. “Let’s explore!”

We wound our way through tree-lined streets, following open house signs. Nineteen Woods End, a large Colonial filled with natural light, hardwood floors, and high ceilings, was our final stop. We arrived ten minutes before the open house ended, forcing us to rush from room to room. As we entered each one, I could feel Chris’s body hum with excitement beside me, the way it did when he was writing a song.

When we got to the finished basement, he spun around.

“My music studio!” he exclaimed, raising his arms over his head. Even at six foot two, inches remained between Chris’s fingertips and the ceiling.

Before leaving, we took a last look at the living room. Built- in bookshelves framed a window seat that overlooked the side yard where a row of mature arborvitaes provided privacy. I would’ve bought the home on this room alone, but it was what Chris said there that sold me.

“That’s where I’ll put the piano, start giving lessons.” The sparkle I hadn’t seen in months returned to his eyes.

“It’s lovely.” I scanned the information sheet. “But we don’t need all this space. It’s got five bedrooms!”

“Don’t worry.” He raised his eyebrows and slid his arm around my waist, pulling me into him. “We’ll fill ’em up.”
Opening to page 69 in The Perfect Neighborhood offers an accurate glimpse into the story’s setting and themes.

As the novel begins, readers learn that actress Allison Langley has left her handsome husband, Chris, a former rockstar, and fled the affluent town of Oak Hill in the middle of the night. This passage explains how the golden couple ended up moving to the tony enclave in the first place.

Like most residents of Oak Hill, the Langleys believe they're lucky to make their home in the leafy suburb. But as time passes, the bright future they imagine begins to tarnish. They’re not the only ones whose seemingly perfect world is anything but idyllic.

The story’s setting is almost a character in its own right. Much like the people who live there, Oak Hill’s outward appearance can be deceiving.

This passage also sheds light on the Langleys’ relationship. Chris’s charm often convinces Allison to cast aside her own feelings. In this case, she ignores her initial reluctance to leave behind city life and embrace this family-filled community.

Over the course of the story, Allison reveals her true feelings about her life in Oak Hill and what led her to leave—a move that ignites a firestorm of gossip among her neighbors. But when five-year-old Billy Barnes goes missing on his walk home from kindergarten, the focus shifts and residents fear for the safety of their families in this community that they once considered untouchable.
Visit Liz Alterman's website.

Q&A with Liz Alterman.

My Book, The Movie: The Perfect Neighborhood.

--Marshal Zeringue