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The Neighbors Are Watching: A Novel Hardcover – November 16, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The prologue to Ginsberg's third novel, a series of e-mails relating to Diana Jones, a 17-year-old mom who goes missing during the destructive San Diego fires of October 2007, sets up expectations for a gritty, nail-biting thriller, but the author opts instead for a sketchy, domestic drama that focuses on how Diana's disappearance affects those she leaves behind. In July 2007, pregnant biracial Diana surprises her biological father, Joe Montana (no relation to the football player), by showing up at his house in San Diego. Joe's wife, Allison, whom Joe never told about Diana, feels betrayed because she aborted a child she wanted but Joe didn't. As Joe strives to be a good father to Diana, he slips into an affair with a sexy new neighbor, Jessalyn Martin. Meanwhile, neighbors Dick and Dorothy Werner deal with their addict son Kevin's attraction to Diana. Ginsberg (The Grift) examines her characters' lives with microscopic zeal, but Diana remains a disappointing enigma. (Nov.) (c)
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From Booklist

Fans of Desperate Housewives will enjoy Ginsberg’s engaging, if somewhat predictable, mix of domestic drama and psychological suspense. When Diana, a very pregnant teenager, shows up at her biological father Joe’s door in San Diego, the gossip mill among residents of snooty Fuller Court starts churning immediately. Joe’s wife, Allison, has a complete meltdown—drinking, sleeping all day, and (gasp) not even doing her hair. Joe had never uttered a word about having a child; now Allison wonders what else he’s kept mum. Prudish neighbors Dick Werner and his wife, Dorothy, positively salivate over the scandal. To their chagrin, the Werners’ son, Kevin, has fallen for Diana—and her newborn baby, Zoe, too. Lesbian neighbors Sam and Gloria and a sexy former reality-TV star named Jessalyn become entangled in the chaos when Diana goes missing during the area’s worst-ever wildfires. Everyone is a suspect here; even seemingly upstanding citizens have closets bulging with skeletons. Ginsberg (The Grift, 2008) serves up deliciously flawed characters. A good read for a lazy day at the beach. --Allison Block

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (November 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307463869
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307463869
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,108,021 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

A lifelong lover of books, Debra Ginsberg waited tables for over twenty years to support her other career as a writer, resulting in her first book, "Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress." She is also the author of the critically acclaimed memoirs, "Raising Blaze: A Mother and Son's Long, Strange Journey Into Autism" and "About My Sisters." Debra went on to write the novels, "Blind Submission," "The Grift," a New York Times Notable Book for 2008 and winner of the Southern California Independent Booksellers Award for Best Mystery, and "The Neighbors Are Watching." Her most recent novel is "What the Heart Remembers."
For more information, visit Debra at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Femmewriter on November 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I read Debra Ginsberg's new novel,'The Neighbors are Watching' the first day it was released. By the end of the afternoon I was finished and wishing she had written more chapters.
As a San Diego native and journalist who covered the Witch Creek Fire, I can truly say that she captures the suspense and fear that the Santa Ana winds bring to the area. As for the neighborhood- I know it well and Debra makes me want to stay the hell away!
No one knows what goes on behind the doors in these upscale neighborhoods, but Debra gives you some creepy ideas of what could be happening. The plot is original and edgy and the themes are up-to-date. The novel is laced with surprises and last-minute plot twists. What more could you ask in a suspense novel?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Site Critic Today on November 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ginsberg's characters all have their secrets that slowly build and boil over as the plot drives a handful of twists that will have you rereading previous pages searching for clues.

An incredibly fun read that captures the light and energy of San Diego perfectly, and gets you immediately invested in the characters.

Any lover of suspense shouldn't miss this one.
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Format: Hardcover
Ginsberg dips into recent San Diego history in a novel that is three-fourths domestic drama and one-fourth mystery. In the Carmel Valley, Fuller Court appears as empty as a ghost town, but the residents are aware of everybody's business. When seventeen-year-old Diana waits on the doorstep for her birth father to arrive, her café au lait skin catches more than one inquisitive neighbor's interest. That she is very pregnant only makes this event more gossip-worthy. The once peaceful domestic landscape is shattered when Joe Montana and his wife, Allison, pull into their driveway. Seems Joe has neglected to mention Diana's existence to Allison. Add water and mix for instant trouble in paradise.

The pregnant teen is surly and uncommunicative, her deadbeat dad suddenly finding excuses to work longer hours, Allison convinced she has been married to a stranger for eight years. While the Montana household is rocking from the shock to their domestic bliss, the neighbors harbor their own secrets and grief, from in-your-face busybodies Dick and Dorothy Werner and their teenaged drug-addict son, Kevin, to the lesbian couple reeling from their angry spouses' court action to remove their young sons from the home. Mother nature runs interference for the occupants of Fuller Court, but some of these folks are well on their way to crazy town before the Santa Ana winds howl and wildfires threaten to reduce all and sundry to ashes.

Ginsberg delves into the personal histories of her characters, dropping not-too-subtle hints about a mystery that overshadows the Montana family drama, encroaching wild fires adding to the general domestic chaos. Least at fault is the biracial teenager thrust into the white-bread landscape of Fuller Court, the lesbian couple a close second.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tina Says VINE VOICE on February 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Set in California during the Santa Ana winds of 2007, The Neighbors Are Watching by Debra Ginsberg explores the complex lives of a group of residents of a cul de sac. Each person in this small group harbors secrets, not quite the person they appear on the outside to their neighbors as they come and go from their homes, exchanging polite conversation.

Joe and Allison are a happily married couple until Joe's pregnant teenage daughter shows up at their door. Allison had never known of Diana's existence, and now must make room for her in her home and her life. This sets about changes in their family and ripples throughout the neighborhood. Diana becomes friends with Dorothy and Dick Werner's teenage son Kevin. The Werners are upset about this friendship, trying to forbid it. Diana and Kevin spend most of their time in Kevin's bedroom hanging out, as Kevin avoids both his parents. As her pregnancy progresses, Diana is befriended by the neighborhood lesbian couple Sam and Gloria. Both have lost custody of their children to their ex-husbands, and while the relationship appears strong at first, things are not going well for them, either. Joe and Allison's marriage appears to be falling apart as Allison self medicates her depression over Diana's arrival with alcohol. Joe turns to the neighborhood tramp, Jessalyn, to satisfy his needs.

When Diana goes missing during the mandatory evacuation as raging wildfires come closer, the entire neighborhood is drawn together to help find the new mother, whose baby was left abandoned at home.

To me this felt like a good episode of Desperate Housewives. Lots of secrets that go on behind closed doors. I chuckled to myself several times while reading, thinking about my own neighbors- people we are good friends with.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Parrish on March 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
NEIGHBORS opens with one of the most subtly suspenseful introductions I've ever read. You won't be able to resist turning the page and reading further. Nevertheless, the story is more a study in character than a whodunit, however nicely aspects of the latter were executed.

Joe Montana comes home one day to find a pregnant young woman waiting in his driveway. She's his daughter from a previous relationship, one he never told his wife about. A wife who'd once reluctantly had an abortion because she and Joe weren't ready for a child. The novel is Ginsberg's best book yet. It's a page-turner that invites readers to get caught up in the lives of a suburban community, where pettiness and superficiality are really manifestations of problems that run deep. Round-robin perspective shifts keep interest high.

The character analyses remind me of Jonathan Franzen; that's how good they are. A favorite example, perhaps because it's near the end and fresh in my memory, is a scene in which Joe shops for jewelry for his wife. Having been a jewelry salesman and having watched countless men panic when faced with all the choices, I can attest that Ginsberg got it right.
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