Two of my favorite things in the world are craft beer and books. On the last Thursday of every month I pair a novel I love with a pint to sip while reading it, under the theory that there is a perfect beer to compliment every book.
This month I read The Good Neighbor by Amy Sue Nathan and I could not be more excited to share it with you! Many of you are on a bit of a break from work and/or school right now and if you’re like me, reading is near the top of your winter break “to do” list– just go ahead and add this book to the very top of that list.
Izzy Lane, the main character in The Good Neighbor, is recently divorced and has just moved back to her childhood home with her son, Noah. She’s in transition, learning to navigate sharing custody with her ex and starting over in the neighborhood she grew up in. In the midst of this, she starts an anonymous blog as a place to express her feelings about all the change. She has a regular readers and enjoys connecting with them in the comments. Just as she is starting to find her footing, she runs into her ex-husband and his new girlfriend. Caught off-guard and wanting to seem “fine” about it all, she invents a boyfriend. Just a tiny little lie. No big deal. Until she slips and mentions this fictional beau on her blog, and her best-friend Jade approaches her about writing a dating blog for 40-somethings on her extremely popular website, Pop Philly. Suddenly Izzy’s tiny lie has the potential to cause more harm than she ever imagined.
Here are just a few things I loved about The Good Neighbor:
- The voice. This is something that writers and folks in the publishing industry talk about a lot, but it’s tricky to explain. I would describe it most simply as the tone and cadence of an author’s words. That je ne sais quoi that makes a book really, really, hard to put down. The voice Nathan gives to Izzy is strong and unique. (Perhaps the best thing to say here is: want to understand voice? Read this book.)
- The extremely accurate portrayal of online culture and how very real connections can be with online friends. Nathan has been blogging since 2006 and currently runs the award-winning Women’s Fiction Writers blog. Her knowledge about how the online world works is evident as she writes about Izzy’s misadventures.
- Izzy’s friends. More specifically, the fact that each of them has their own messy life. From her lifelong best friends, Jade and Rachel, to her next door neighbor (and stand in grandmother), Mrs. Feldman, Izzy learns something she didn’t know about each of them. I was especially partial to Jade, who confesses feeling like an outsider because she is not married and does not have children, by choice. I wanted to hop into the book and be her best friend, because boy do I get that (or at least half of it).
I’m pairing The Good Neighbor with Anchor Steam Beer.* It’s a classic. A really flavorful and versatile brown ale. I would recommend it to someone wanting to try craft beer for the first time or to a devout beer lover and they would both enjoy it. Similarly, long-time women’s fiction fans will love this book, as would folks who haven’t the slightest clue what the genre is. Also, reading this book felt like listening to a good friend tell a story, so it seems only right to pair it with a lighter alcohol beer– perfect for having a couple over a long conversation with friends.
*Since it’s the holiday season, Anchor Christmas Ale would be a totally acceptable pairing as well.