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Book club questions for Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan covers all the twists and turns in this disturbing take on suburbia life. There will be spoilers so for more context about the story, check out my spoiler-free review first.
Ahh, this is one messed up story!! It’s one of those where you finish it and almost want to put in a comedy or Disney movie on the TV to wash away the memory of how this one unfolds.
Spoiler thoughts: Despite all the articles in the future using the word murders, I didn’t see the climax coming with Rhea. But perhaps I should have. It’s one of those where I wonder if I read it for a second time, I would see that’s where it was going to go. Anyway, what a depressing and distributing ending. Although was happy to see the Wilde family name get cleared and they moved far away from that hell hole.
Overall, I thought this was an interesting read but the dark twists were a bit much for me at times.
Welcome to Maple Street, a picture-perfect slice of suburban Long Island, its residents bound by their children, their work, and their illusion of safety in a rapidly changing world.
But menace skulks beneath the surface of this exclusive enclave, making its residents prone to outrage. When the Wilde family moves in, they trigger their neighbors’ worst fears. Dad Arlo’s a gruff has-been rock star with track marks. Mom Gertie’s got a thick Brooklyn accent, with high heels and tube tops to match. Their weird kids cuss like sailors. They don’t fit with the way Maple Street sees itself.
Though Maple Street’s Queen Bee, Rhea Schroeder—a lonely college professor repressing a dark past—welcomed Gertie and her family at first, relations went south during one spritzer-fueled summer evening, when the new best friends shared too much, too soon. By the time the story opens, the Wildes are outcasts.
As tensions mount, a sinkhole opens in a nearby park, and Rhea’s daughter Shelly falls inside. The search for Shelly brings a shocking accusation against the Wildes. Suddenly, it is one mom’s word against the other’s in a court of public opinion that can end only in blood.
A riveting and ruthless portrayal of American suburbia, Good Neighbors excavates the perils and betrayals of motherhood and friendships and the dangerous clash between social hierarchy, childhood trauma, and fear.
Book Club Questions for Good Neighbors
- Why is the book titled Good Neighbors? Are there any ‘good neighbors’ in this story?
- The story is told from multiple perspectives as well as magazine articles 15 years after the events in this story. How did the magazine articles add to the suspense of the events in the story?
- In your opinion, why did the Wilde family not fit in with the other neighbors on Maple Street?
- Do you think Maple Street is an accurate representation of suburban life in the U.S. when it comes to daily neighbor interactions?
- Both Rhea and Gertie have dark pasts. Let’s talk about how they both handled their childhood trauma differently.
- Do you feel like you got enough information about why Rhea was such a disturbed and violent individual? Did she have an undiagnosed mental condition or was she simply just a hateful person?
- Why did Shelly make up the lie about Arlo and why did Rhea continue with the accusation?
- Why do you think almost none of the neighbors took the side of the Wilde family? What does it say about herd mentality?
- A literal sink hole develops in this neighborhood, which has devastating impacts. Do you think the sinkhole also served as a type of metaphor about the neighbors?
- The story examines classism and even though Arlo has a musician past, he and his family are still looked down upon when it’s apparent they don’t have much money. Let’s talk about how classism was handled in this novel.
- Let’s talk about the shocking climax and the ending. Why did Rhea murder her entire family and then commit suicide?
- What do you feel are some of the overall messages and themes?
Hope you enjoyed book club questions for Good Neighbors! Here are some more recommendations along with links to book club questions.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
This story did remind me a bit of Little Fires Everywhere in some ways.
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives.
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned—from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren—an enigmatic artist and single mother—who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town—and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.
Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood—and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.
Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson
If you’re looking for another mystery set in the suburbs, check out Never Have I Ever.
Amy Whey is proud of her ordinary life and the simple pleasures that come with it—teaching diving lessons, baking cookies for new neighbors, helping her best friend, Charlotte, run their local book club. Her greatest joy is her family: her devoted professor husband, her spirited fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, her adorable infant son. And, of course, the steadfast and supportive Charlotte. But Amy’s sweet, uncomplicated life begins to unravel when the mysterious and alluring Angelica Roux arrives on her doorstep one book club night.
Sultry and magnetic, Roux beguiles the group with her feral charm. She keeps the wine flowing and lures them into a game of spilling secrets. Everyone thinks it’s naughty, harmless fun. Only Amy knows better. Something wicked has come her way—a she-devil in a pricey red sports car who seems to know the terrible truth about who she is and what she once did.
When they’re alone, Roux tells her that if she doesn’t give her what she asks for, what she deserves, she’s going to make Amy pay for her sins. One way or another.
To protect herself and her family and save the life she’s built, Amy must beat the devil at her own clever game, matching wits with Roux in an escalating war of hidden pasts and unearthed secrets. Amy knows the consequences if she can’t beat Roux. What terrifies her is everything she could lose if she wins.
A diabolically entertaining tale of betrayal, deception, temptation, and love filled with dark twists leavened by Joshilyn Jackson’s trademark humor, Never Have I Ever explores what happens when the transgressions of our past come back with a vengeance.