LOVING THY NEIGHBOR IS EASIER SAID THAN DONE.
Hortensia James and Marion Agostino are neighbors. One is black, the other white. Both are successful women with impressive careers. Both have recently been widowed, and are living with questions, disappointments, and secrets that have brought them shame.Read more...
LOVING THY NEIGHBOR IS EASIER SAID THAN DONE.
Hortensia James and Marion Agostino are neighbors. One is black, the other white. Both are successful women with impressive careers. Both have recently been widowed, and are living with questions, disappointments, and secrets that have brought them shame. And each has something that the woman next door deeply desires.
Sworn enemies, the two share a hedge and a deliberate hostility, which they maintain with a zeal that belies their age. But, one day, an unexpected event forces Hortensia and Marion together. As the physical barriers between them collapse, their bickering gradually softens into conversation, which yields a discovery of shared experiences. But are these sparks of connection enough to ignite a friendship, or is it too late to expect these women to change?
The U.S. debut of an Etisalat Prize finalist, The Woman Next Door is a winning story of the common ground we sometimes find in unexpected places, told with wit and wry humor.
- ISBN-13: 9781250124579
- ISBN-10: 1250124573
- Publisher: Picador USA
- Publish Date: February 2017
- Page Count: 288
- Dimensions: 8.1 x 5 x 1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.57 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-12-05
- Reviewer: Staff
South African Omotoso makes her U.S. debut with this charming, touching, occasionally radiant tale of two prickly octogenarians: two women, one black and one white, neighbors who discover after 20 years of exchanging digs and insults that they might help each other. Eighty-five-year-old Barbados-born textile designer Hortensia James occupies number 10 in the small upscale Cape Town community of Katterijn. In 1994, when Hortensia and her white husband purchased the house, she became Katterijns first black homeowner. Now, 20 years later, shes a widow who excels at cutting remarks, many aimed at the widow next door, 81-year-old Marion Agostino, self-appointed community leader and number 10s architect. Their mutual animosity is well established until a repair project leaves Hortensia with a broken leg and Marion in need of temporary housing. Seeing an opportunity to avoid home nurses (whom Hortensia detests even more than she detests Marion), Hortensia invites Marion to move in with her. These creative women then create their own kind of crotchety companionship as Hortensia meets her late husbands daughter and the descendants of slaves that once occupied her land, while Marion confronts her failures as a mother, employer, and white woman under Apartheid. Omotoso captures the changing racial relations since the 1950s, as well as the immigrant experience through personal detail and small psychological insights into mixed emotions, the artists eye, and widows remorse. Hers is a fresh voice as adept at evoking the peace of walking up a kopje as the cruelty of South Africas past. (Feb.)
Finding common ground
Yewande Omotoso, a Barbados born author who moved to South Africa in 1992, makes her U.S. fiction debut with this provocative, enlightening and at times outrageously funny novel about two old and very opinionated neighbors in Katterijn, a wealthy suburb of Cape Town.
Marion Agostino is a white native of Cape Town, a widow and the head of their enclave’s property owners. She once was the principal architect in her own firm, but gave up that work when she became the mother of four children, who now mostly ignore her. Hortensia James, a famous black textile designer whose husband is on his deathbed, has been her neighbor for the past 20 years. The relationship between these strong, creative women has been nothing but contentious. In chapters alternating between their voices, Omotoso slowly fills in their backstories, revealing their loves, hopes and disappointments to give insight into how they evolved into the women they are now.
Then an event occurs that forces Marion and Hortensia to come together—both living temporarily under the same roof. With an acutely perceptive eye, Omotoso paints a picture of the subtle changes in their interactions. As their snipes and barbs morph into attempts at understanding, their personal growth reminds the reader of what is still occurring, on a grander scale, in the country these memorable women call home.