Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The Mother Next Door

  The Mother Next Door
Author:  Tara Laskowski
Publication Information:  Graydon  House. 2021. 352 pages.
ISBN:  1525804707 / 978-1525804700

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and the HTP Fall 2021 mystery and thriller blog tour free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Ladies and gentlemen, skulls and boys: by the time our Halloween block party is over tonight, one of us will be dead."

Favorite Quote:  "They done 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 facade, fragile glass figurines inside elaborate dollhouses designed to look like perfect, safe happy places."

**** BLOG TOUR *****


Ivy Woods is the ultimate, affluent suburban neighborhood. It is located outside of Washington, DC in a little cul-de-sac. It is seemingly quiet and friendly. The families on the cul-de-sac are friends and there for each other when needed. The women are career women, wives, mothers, volunteers, PTA moms, and the organizers of the ultimate Halloween party. That cul-de-sac is "the" place to be on Halloween and the neighborhood that all the local kids gravitate to.

However, perhaps, all is not what it seems in Ivy Woods. The women of Ivy Woods - the Ivy Five - have the reputation of being a clique, of being "queen bees" in a suburban PTA mom hierarchy, and of being mean. Years ago, in 2005, a death occurred at the Halloween party. It was deemed a suicide and has transformed into the legend of Ghost Girl. What if there is more to this story? What if someone know a different story of what happened that night? What if that story is true? What if it is  not?

Theresa Pressley moves to Ivy Woods with her husband the new high school principal and her daughter. She knows the surface story of Ivy Woods and wants to belong. She learns the darker side of Ivy Woods. She also learns that everyone has secrets they was to protect beyond this story. The thing is so does she.

So proceeds this story through the past and the present gradually drawing the threads of past and present together into a dramatic conclusion. Although this is the story of the Ivy Woods families, it is really the story of the Ivy Wood women. The men - the husbands - are really only tangentially present in the story. Even amongst the women, two main characters - Kendra and Therese - emerge.

The book keeps me guessing until the end. I do not see the twist until it arrives, and then it makes perfect sense. The ending, though disturbing and "wrong" on so many levels, also makes sense. What makes this book is the ordinary suburban setting. So many of us know a neighborhood like Ivy Woods. Those with kids perhaps visit such a place themselves on Halloween. So many of us also know a clique of friends such as the Ivy Five. Perhaps, some of us have such a strong bond of sisterhood ourselves although hopefully more positively channeled. The setup, the group, the situation and the story rings true. As such, it reads more like drama than thriller but one that I eagerly follow along on until the last page. I turn the last page still wanting to know what happens next!

The ending leaves an opening for a sequel. I wonder if one is coming. I could see myself following along on the journey of the Ivy Five and the next generation.

About the Book

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…

About the Author

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.

Q&A with Tara Laskowski

Q: Please give us a one sentence pitch for your novel, The Mother Next Door.
A: An atmospheric suspense novel about a tight-knit group of suburban mothers who invite a new neighborhood mom into their fold, and the fallout the night of the annual Halloween block party, when secrets from the past come back to haunt them.

Q: Why do you believe thrillers are so popular?
A: They naturally invoke our curiosity--our sense of “I have to know what happens.” Plus, I think people like to read about bad things happening to other people. It’s the same with horror movies or books--it’s a fun way to put yourself in a terrifying situation without actually having to be in a terrifying situation. As long as our brains know we are safe, we can enjoy that rush of adrenaline without the sheer panic.

Q: Where do you get your ideas? Of course, from your imagination, but do you read, see or hear something that clicks? How did you come up with the idea for The Mother Next Door? Is this book based on any true events?
A: I usually start with setting, weirdly. I need a place that I can envision, and that I can see bad things happening in. If I’ve got the place, then I can insert characters and make things happen.

For The Mother Next Door, I took all of the things I love most--Halloween, cool houses, urban legends--and put them in a domestic suspense set in a creepy suburban neighborhood. The book isn’t really based on any true events, but it definitely riffs off stuff in my real life. We live in a neighborhood with a cul-de-sac that throws a Halloween potluck every year, for example, though as far as I know nothing nefarious has happened over there!

Q: Are you a plotter or pantser?
A: I don’t do well with outlines. I need to feel my way through a book with a blindfold on (though occasionally I guess I pull it down and try to get a glimpse of what’s ahead.) By this, I mean, I like to write a little, then figure out the next few “beats” or things that might happen, then write those, then figure out a little more, etc. And delete and rewrite and cry a little and doubt myself and think I’m the greatest thing since barbeque chips and start the whole process over again. And each time, so far, it’s ended up in a book, so fingers crossed!

Q: Any great tips for aspiring writers?
A: 1) Find your tribe 2) Learn to take criticism and rejection gracefully 3) Read. A lot. 4) Sign up for a monthly massage program.

Q: What is your favorite place to write?
A: It’s super boring, but my home office. I like to have control over my environment. I know writers who can write in coffee shops or libraries or outside, but I need to be at a desk in relative quiet most of the time. If it’s too noisy or too cold or there’s a chance that a spider will crawl on me, I can’t concentrate. That said, we have an excellent screened-in porch and I do like writing out there sometimes.

Q: Are you working on another book now or taking a break?
A: I’m working on my third novel, which is set in upstate New York at a winery and estate and features a group of old friends who return there for a reunion only to realize they are caught up in a decade-old revenge plot.

Q: What is your favorite season and why?
A: Hands-down: Fall. Sweaters! Crunchy leaves! Pumpkin everything! Football! Also, Halloween is my birthday, and I adore anything and everything spooky. So, there you go.

Social Links

Author website:
Twitter: @TaraLWrites
Instagram: @taralwrites

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