For fans of Lisa Jewell, Aimee Molloy, and Joshilyn Jackson, an upmarket suspense novel from a multi-award-winning author about a tightknit group of suburban mothers who invite a new neighborhood mom into their fold, and the fallout the night of the annual block party, when secrets from the past come back to haunt them…
The annual block party is the pinnacle of the year on idyllic suburban cul de sac Ivy Woods Drive. An influential group of neighborhood moms—known as the Ivy Five—plan the event for months.
Except the Ivy Five have been four for a long time.
When a new mother moves to town, eager to fit in, the moms see it as an opportunity to make the group whole again. This year’s block party should be the best yet… until the women start receiving anonymous messages threatening to expose the quiet neighborhood’s dark past—and the lengths they’ve gone to hide it.
As secrets seep out and the threats intensify, the Ivy Five must sort the loyal from the disloyal, the good from the bad. They’ll do anything to protect their families. But when a twisted plot is revealed, with dangerous consequences, their steady foundation begins to crumble, leaving only one certainty: after this year’s block party, Ivy Woods Drive will never be the same.
From award-winning author Tara Laskowski, The Mother Next Door is an atmospheric novel of domestic suspense in which the strive for perfection ends in murder…
TARA LASKOWSKI is the author of One Night Gone, which won an Agatha Award, Macavity Award, and Anthony Award, and was a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award, Left Coast Crime Award, Strand Critics’ Award, and Library of Virginia Literary Award. She is also the author of two short story collections, Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons and Bystanders, has published stories in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Mid-American Review, among others, and is the former editor of SmokeLong Quarterly. Tara earned a BA in English from Susquehanna University and an MFA from George Mason University and currently lives in Virginia. Find her on Twitter and Instagram, @TaraLWrites.
- Author website: https://taralaskowski.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tara.laskowski.9
- Twitter: @TaraLWrites
- Instagram: @taralwrites
- Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/56555529-the-mother-next-doorhttps://www.facebook.com/tara.laskowski.9
What I Loved
The Mother Next Door is a suspenseful and atmospheric Halloween tale of what happens when suburban moms cross the line. I love that the suburban setting is eerily recognizable. It could be anywhere in the USA and is so accurately portrayed it gives the story an even more sinister feel.
Profound truths are buried underneath the recognizable setting, making the story a unique look at social hierarchies and power. We always think of middle school as a place that breeds social bullying because of the development of children and the need to belong that occurs around those middle-grade years. But what people rarely talk about is how that never changes in some women and how specific settings promote its occurrence. The Ivy Five is a neighborhood clique. You are someone if you wear the Ivy pin and just a face in the crowd if you don’t. But what happens if that power derived from those feelings of superiority crosses the line? You have to read the story to find out.
Technically, two unique perspectives tell the tale. Theresa is the new mom in the neighborhood, just trying to fit in. And Kendra is the queen bee of the Ivy Five or Ivy Hive, as they are also called. Both narrators tell an essential aspect of this story about a particular group of friends and their many secrets. I loved the complex twists and turns in the story that the two narrators slowly reveal different aspects of those secrets.
I particularly enjoyed the sections interspersed throughout the story by the perpetrator. They were dark and creepy and gave me all sorts of chills. The ending, too, sent shivers down my spine as the reality of the deep core of the perpetrator was revealed.
As I mentioned, the characters are not deeply developed, but I will say that if you are a suburban mom yourself, you will find the characters instantly recognizable. They all remind me of various real-life people that I have been surrounded by my entire adult life.
Reminds Me Of
The Mother Next Door reminds me of a boarding school type of thriller as in look what happens now that they are adults’ kind of way. It has a similar social construct and similar abuse of power situations. When people grow to think that they are above the law or, worse, that they are the law – bad things happen.
What I Wish
Though The Mother Next Door is told by two narrators, it is a more plot-driven rather than character-driven story. This leads to the characters, even the main character, being only minimally developed. I enjoy complex characters, so I would have loved to see more complexity in character development infused into the tale.
To Read or Not to Read
If you are looking for a Halloween-themed domestic thriller, this is one you will enjoy with all its twisty turns and a high level of suspense.
Ladies and gentlemen, skulls and boys: by the time our Halloween block party is over tonight, one of us will be dead.
And I don’t mean dead as in dull, or dead as in zombified. I mean dead as in gone. Dead as in expired. Killed.
You may be feeling distressed about this, knowing what you know about Ivy Woods—the great neighborhood it is, the sweet, loving families that live there. How could such a tragedy happen in such a wonderful place? You may have traveled here yourself, as a child or as a parent, lured in by the local fame of the street and its ghoulish decorations each year. The lights, the smoke, the gravestones, and the moaning. The witches, cackling and handing out candy. The swarms of little Frankensteins and cowboys and robots and ballet dancers lugging their pillowcases and plastic pumpkin buckets filled with sugar and junk.
But Ivy Woods isn’t perfect.
Far from it.
Look closer. Look under the makeup and the masks, look into the windows of the perfect houses. Dig under the surface of those freshly mowed lawns and you’ll find the worms. I’ve looked—believe me, I’ve looked. There’s something about this street. There are secrets. I know from watching through the windows, from hearing the hushed conversations, from lingering on their faces when they think everyone else has looked away.
Oh they think they are perfect. They pat themselves on the back for throwing such good parties, for raising such fine children, for living in such big houses.
But they are pretending.
They don masks on this one single night to dress up as someone or something else, but in reality they live their lives this way.
We all do.
We hate ourselves. We are too fat, or too thin. We should work hard, be smarter. We are lonely and depressed. We are worried about money. We are ashamed of the way that our friends and family treat us. But we lie about it all. We hide behind a protective façade, fragile glass figurines inside elaborate dollhouses designed to look like perfect, safe, happy places.
Tonight it will all shatter.
Watch closely and you’ll begin to see what I see. There’s trouble in the air, a cold wind blowing in from far away, and it’s settled on Ivy Woods Drive. The secrets and the lies we tell ourselves and others will emerge tonight like spirits of the dead. Lines will be drawn. Sides will be taken. Someone won’t make it out alive.
I can’t save that person, but I’ll tell the story. Turn over the rocks, expose the worms. Pull back the masks.
Because I know their secrets, secrets that will destroy them all.
If they don’t destroy themselves first.
Excerpted from The Mother Next Door by Tara Laskowski, Copyright © 2021 by Tara Laskowski. Published by Graydon House Books.