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The Neighbors Are Watching: A Novel [Hardcover]

Debra Ginsberg
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 16, 2010
Set against the backdrop of the deadly 2007 wildfires that forced the evacuation of half a million San Diego residents, Debra Ginsberg’s new novel, The Neighbors Are Watching, examines the dark side of suburbia—a place where everyone has something to hide.
Aside from their annual block party, the neighbors on Fuller Court tend to keep to themselves—which doesn’t mean that they aren’t all watching and judging each other on the sly. So when pregnant teenager Diana Jones shows up, literally, on her biological father's doorstep, the neighbors can't stop talking. Joe Montana is a handsome restaurant manager who failed to tell his wife Allison that he fathered a baby with an ex-girlfriend seventeen years ago. Allison, already harboring her own inner resentments, takes the news very badly. She isn’t the only one. Diana's bombshell arrival in their quiet cul-de-sac sets off a chain reaction of secrets and lies that threaten to engulf the neighborhood along with the approaching flames from two huge wildfires fanned by the Santa Ana winds.

A former reality TV contestant who receives a steady stream of gentlemen callers at all hours, two women forced to hide their relationship in order to keep custody of their children, a sanctimonious housewife with a very checkered past, and a family who nobody ever sees—these are just a few of the warring neighbors struggling to keep up appearances and protect their own interests. But when lovely, troubled Diana disappears in the aftermath of the wildfire evacuation, leaving her newborn baby and many unanswered questions behind, the residents of Fuller Court must band together to find her before all of their carefully constructed deceptions come unraveled.
A potent blend of domestic drama and suspense, The Neighbors Are Watching reveals the secrets that bloom alongside manicured flowerbeds—and the truths that lurk behind closed doors.

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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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (November 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307463869
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307463869
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,679,336 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When the Smoke Clears, Suspense Fills the Air. November 29, 2010
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
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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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Her Best Book Yet March 26, 2011
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'll Be Watching For More of Ginsberg February 22, 2011
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing.
The book was boring. I expected intrigue and suspense. The characters were not at all interesting. Will take Ginsburg off my list of authors to read.
Published 8 months ago by Melinda Iseminger
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Character, Fantastic Story,
I loved What the Heart I opened Debra's new book with excitement and enthusiasm. I was not let down! Read more
Published 14 months ago by Tazmania
5.0 out of 5 stars The Neighbors are watching by Debra Ginsberg
FANTASTIC PAGE TURNER...I just loved this book. It was a fast-paced family drama/mystery and I could not put it down. Read more
Published 16 months ago by jjkaiser
3.0 out of 5 stars A fairly good read
I must admit that I bought it because it was by a local author and set in areas that I know. It was a good read, but I didn't feel it was a book that I couldn't put down.
Published 18 months ago by izabrit
3.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Not too bad...little bit mystery and drama. Almost a Desperate Housewives episode. Good Read. Would recommend for someone in between books.
Published 18 months ago by Robin Vance
4.0 out of 5 stars So real
I picked up this book at the library after reading that the story was against the background of the Witch Creek fires. Read more
Published on April 22, 2012 by J. Malloy
4.0 out of 5 stars entertaining thriller
In the summer of 2007 seventeen year old pregnant Diana Jones arrives at her father Joe Montana's home in the upper crust Fuller Court of San Diego. Read more
Published on August 2, 2011 by Harriet Klausner
5.0 out of 5 stars Made me cry
Any book that makes me cry, gets a automatic 5 stars. It's an incredible talent to make someone emotional with a book. Read more
Published on June 4, 2011 by V. Lynch
4.0 out of 5 stars Strong Domestic Drama
Several months ago someone on a listserv I belong to recommended *The Neighbors are Watching* by Debra Ginsberg. Read more
Published on March 17, 2011 by Christine Trensen
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing novel
Will keep you reading to figure out what happens. Easy read. Takes place in a suburb of San Diego so that part is also interesting.
Published on March 5, 2011 by Patricia
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