(Disclosure: I received an eArc from NetGalley and the publisher for review consideration.)
Two unlikable characters, layers of racial exploration, complications, and solid storytelling show up in The Woman Next Door. Marion and Hortensia are neighbors. They are headstrong, fierce, and feisty suburbanites, set in a neighborhood of Cape Town, South Africa. Both were successful professionals. Both are now past their prime, but not near death. Both have complicated marriages that end early in the story in death. But for the first three-quarters of the book, it is not their similarities that dominate their relationship, it is their differences.
Then an accident caused by Hortensia collides with a shocking financial turn-of-events for Marion, and the two women find themselves living in the same house temporarily. An excellent set-up for the continuation of the story. What happens when the forces of personality, personal and historical baggage, grudges, and desperate circumstances require that they not only engage periodically, but that they live together? As it turns out, a lot.
Author Yewande Omotoso focuses on developing Marion and Hortensia and their relationship. Their personalities are at times ridiculous, at times humorous, and at times completely understandable (and who among us isn’t this way), but the factors that shaped their present-day realities are heavy, historical, global, and significant. Marriages and family figure significantly in understanding the women and rounding out their dynamic, but Omotoso’s writing between the two women is what brings urgency and tension to the immediate plot. In bringing these women together, Omotoso graciously shows one moving from ignorance to conviction and the other moving from hate to receptiveness.
The complications that arrived through each layer and chapter kept the story progressing at a quick pace, Hortensia and Marion are dynamic characters, and the storytelling was easy to follow and appreciate for the range of considerations that it introduced. A good read all-around. Recommend.