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Peering in on the Neighbors

A Review of Hannah McKinnon's 2nd Novel

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by Cynthia T. Luna in Author updates, Book Tour, Books I Read
Peering in on Hannah Mary McKinnon's "The Neighbors" - a book review

Hannah Mary McKinnon, whom we interviewed nearly two years ago, is coming out with her second novel, “The Neighbors”. Read our review of her more serious domestic drama below. Afterwards, you can read our interview with her about her writing process/ experiences.

The Neighbors
Review by Cynthia T. Luna

Hannah Mary McKinnon’s second novel, The Neighbors (Amazon US | UK), is a dramatic page turner that feels like watching a train wreck in slow motion and in reverse. You know how the story ends, but you want to know how exactly things got to the way they are.

The story’s main characters, Abby, her husband, Nate Morris, and their daughter, Sarah, are all trying to find out how their lives and their family ended up so… screwed up. While they probably wouldn’t have had the courage to describe their family as typical or even functional, they likely would have pointed to the day the Jeffersons moved in as the day when everything started to unravel — for the worse, of course.

Readers will find themselves rubber necking through the carefully pieced together scenes, to figure out how the all the characters’ lives went from sad and in denial, to downright desperate and forlorn. This reader was gripped from the first page, guiltily delving into the debris of memories from “then” and “now”.

The Neighbors, is a dramatic page turner that feels like watching a train wreck in slow motion and in reverse.

That’s when this story begins to reel you in. The ever-helpful Nate goes next door to introduce himself and lend the new neighbors a hand. Everyone, including the strapping new neighbor, Liam, his doting wife, Nancy, and son, Zac, agree that the demise of the Morrises — the figurative train wreck, as it were — began at that very moment.

Secrets, lies, regrets…

The main premise of The Neighbors is based on the question: “What if your ex-boyfriend moved in next door?” This story mushrooms far beyond that kernel of doubt. The secrets, lies and regrets of the main characters have a domino effect on all the supporting characters as well, making it all the more gripping and frustrating.

Fans of McKinnon’s first book will see some “what if” similarities with her first novel. Readers should be warned that while The Neighbors is modeled on a similar time-hopping narrative as Time After Time, it does not share the same romantic comedy spirit. This Generation X reader appreciated the 1990s music references and flashbacks. But aside from the occasional nostalgic smile, The Neighbors is all about the feels: Abby’s self-loathing, Nate’s constant doting, and Sara’s teen frustration. All clash to crash and burn.

Even though the reader still knows about “now” and how screwed the Morrises’ and the Jeffersons’ lives end up, McKinnon deftly saved the twist-endings for the very last. If twists in a tragedy could be satisfying, these would be prime examples. They lend some finality in a decades-long ordeal fraught with all the wrongs that were never righted.

How Living in Cyn rated The Neighbors

In this, her second book, McKinnon demonstrates her writerly range and her abilities to juggle the complex emotional motivations and decisions her characters make. Even if this reader couldn’t agree with the choices Abby, Nate, Sarah and the other characters made throughout the novel, she could understand why they were made—leading to a satisfactory and unexpected ending. An excellent follow-up to a strong debut!

5 Plumes

5 Plumes!

  • If you liked this review and you think you’d like to purchase McKinnon’s book. Check it out on Amazon!
  • Visit this blog post if you’d like to read sample pages from Hannah McKinnon’s debut novel, Time After Time.
  • If you’d like to find more about her writing process, visit our e-interview with Hannah McKinnon on this blog post!

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