Fowler’s fascinating follow-up to 2018’s A Well-Behaved Woman chronicles the animosity generated between two families that leads to a tragedy in the suburban North Carolina neighborhood of Oak Knoll. Before local TV celebrity Brad Whitman, who is white, moves in, black single mother and ecologist Valerie Alston-Holt already has a poor opinion of him, as the house he is having built compromises an oak tree on Valerie’s property. She grows even more wary upon learning that Brad’s 17-year-old step-daughter Juniper took a purity vow. None of this deters Valerie’s son, Xavier, a gifted musician and honors student who’s headed to college in the fall, from pursuing her Juniper. A particularly ugly side of Brad emerges once Valerie sues him and his builder for damage to the tree: he doesn’t understand her genuine concern for the ecosystem and makes a number of racist and misogynistic remarks to her. Brad sees an opportunity for revenge when he catches Juniper and Xavier in an intimate moment and later uses his connections to a prosecutor and spins the truth to trump up charges against Xavier. The plot is skillfully executed, delving into each character’s complexities fully enough that their choices make perfect sense. This page-turner delivers a thoughtful exploration of prejudice, preconceived notions, and what it means to be innocent in the age of an opportunistic media. 350,000-copy announced first printing. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 10/31/2019 Release date: 02/04/2020 Genre: Fiction
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