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Neighbors: A Novel Paperback – July 1, 2005
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"A wonderfully funny and mysterious book."
-- The New York Times Book Review
"A flawlessly crafted morality play constructed out of the most subtle minutiae of perception and expressionæas if Henry James had written Waiting for Godot."
-- The Nation
"Neighbors offers a version of reality skewed just enough to give paranoia a good name."
About the Author
Thomas Berger is the author of twenty-three novels. His previous novels include Best Friends, Meeting Evil, and The Feud, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. His Little Big Man is known throughout the world.
Top customer reviews
This is a difficult book to review without giving away too much, but here goes: 'Neighbors' is the story of Earl Keese, his wife Enid, daughter Elaine, and the roughly 24 hours he spends getting to know his new neighbors, Harry and Ramona,
Harry is everything Earl is not: young, tall, athletic, popular, outgoing, and overtly sexual. Ramona is young, promiscuous, flirty, cunning, and devious. Their escapades, often tense, sometimes physical, and filled with innuendo, lead Earl to question his own morality often, and question his loyalty to his family, friends, job, and neighborhood. And here is where it gets weird.
Are Harry and Ramona real? Are they projections of the what Earl wishes his life to be? They are young, carefree, attractive, popular, and not saddled by adult trappings like children and a mortgage. They say what they want, when they want it, and make no illusions of their desires. Earl's discussions with his wife and daughter concerning their new neighbors are often surreal, leaving Earl confused and alienated, and wondering whether or not he truly knows his own family. Eventually, Earl finds himself debating the choice between his family and new "friends".
After reading this book, the movie certainly isn't ruined for me, but it leaves far more questions than answers. How much of the night/day was real, imagined, or misconstrued by Earl. He is the classic unreliable narrator, and we never truly know if what he is seeing or hearing or even saying is real or just a delusion. Are Harry and Ramona real? I want to say yes, but I don't know. The only source we have is Earl, a man who's mind is quite literally on the verge of exploding.
The book is blackly comic and you read it not knowing if it going to spill over into extreme violence at any moment. Thomas Berger has a very individual style of writing that casts a cold eye over the everyday details and habits of modern living but importantly he never seems condescending or cruel.