At first glance the picture on this book cover might seem a bit mundane.
Just another pale, khaki colored house in a subdivision. Seemingly interchangeable with the countless thousands out there that drift by unnoticed outside our car windows while on the way home from work, or coming back from the grocery store,
In fact you might even live in a neighborhood full of houses just like this one, placed in a row and all the same on the outside. But once you park your car in the garage you enter a world with its own set of secrets.
And this is the appeal of the cover for ‘Thy Neighbor’ by Norah Vincent: that while at first glance the house seems ordinary, a closer look gives all sorts of clues to something more interesting going on.
The first thing that really got my attention are those two deep, dark windows at the top of the house. They are impenetrably dark, which is what makes them so interesting since it’s not normal for a house that’s as lit up as this one to have so much inky black on the other side of the window panes.
In fact all the windows on the house are like this, even the line of small windows over the garage. It’s unnatural …maybe they are even blacked out on purpose? Anything could be happening in there.
The words ‘Thy Neighbor’ is written in blood red cursive across the front of the house, which alludes to something dramatic and …not so good happening in there.
The only other clues are the footsteps and possibly tire marks that line half of the driveway. Or maybe instead of tire marks those are the marks of something being dragged across the light cement.
See how easy it is to speculate and build a story on something as simple as an empty driveway? But you can never know for sure what’s happening inside your neighbor’s house unless you, um, can see inside your neighbor’s house at any given time. This is exactly what the main character in Thy Neighbor sets out to do:
“At thirty-four, Nick Walsh is a broken, deeply cynical man.
Since the violent deaths of his parents thirteen years earlier, he has been living alone in his childhood home in the suburban Midwest, drinking, drugging, and debauching himself into oblivion.
A measure of solace is provided by his newly found relationship with Monica, a mysterious woman who seems to harbor as many secrets as he does.
Obsessed with understanding the circumstances surrounding his parents’ deaths and deranged by his relentless sorrow, Nick begins a campaign of spying on his neighbors via hidden cameras and microphones he has covertly installed in their houses.
As he observes with amusement and disbelief all the strange, sad, and terrifying things that his neighbors do to themselves and to one another, and as he, in turn, learns that he is being stalked, he begins to slowly unravel the shocking truth about how and why his parents died.
At once unsettling and moving, humorous and horrifying, Thy Neighbor explores the nature of grief, the potential isolation of suburban life, and who we really are when we think no one is watching.”
Damn this actually sounds pretty interesting. The behavior of Nick Walsh is quite shocking yet he’s certainly not the only person out there who’s wondered what was happening in the houses around him. And driven by a deep need to understand his parent’s death he takes a leap that most of us wouldn’t, to actually find out what’s happening behind his neighbor’s walls, whether they like it or not.
I’m tempted to add this one to my reading list but it’s already quite long and I don’t know if this book will live up to the promise of such an intriguing back cover. If you’ve read this book let me know what you thought of how it turned out!