Old Fashion (Cocktail hour with Good Neighbors)

Welcome to the TLC Book Tour for Good Neighbors by Joanne Serling.

Publisher’s Blurb:

A searing portrait of suburbia, friendship, and family strained by a devotion to false appearances.

In an idyllic suburb, four young families quickly form a neighborhood clique, their friendships based on little more than the ages of their children and a shared sense of camaraderie. When one of the couples, Paige and Gene Edwards, adopt a four-year-old girl from Russia, the group’s loyalty and morality is soon called into question. Are the Edwards unkind to their new daughter? Or is she a difficult child with hidden destructive tendencies?

As the seams of the group friendship slowly unravel, neighbor Nicole Westerhof finds herself drawn further into the life of the adopted girl, forcing Nicole to re-examine the deceptive nature of her own family ties, and her complicity in the events unfolding around her.

About the author:

Joanne Serling’s fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in New Ohio Review and North American Review. She is a graduate of Cornell University and studied and taught fiction at The Writers Studio in New York City. She lives outside of New York with her husband and children and is at work on her second book.

What I thought…

While there are a lot of meals and get-togethers in the novel, there’s not a huge emphasis on food. Paige (the neighbor with the secret) seems to be at the center of most of the gatherings.  Paige works hard at being at the center of all things.

  • There’s the Leftover Feast which could and should have been an informal affair among friends to celebrate after Thanksgiving, to unwind with friends after family obligations.  Instead Paige turns it into a pageant.
  • Nicole and her kids make cookies.   She also makes a strange meal of Mac ‘n Cheese with peas and carrots sticks.
  • Nicole and Jay host a luncheon for Paige and her family to try to get to the heart of the issue.
  • There’s lots of cocktail parties and social drinking.

There’s not a lot of food, but there is a big emphasis on the social gatherings and the pretentiousness that a certain hostess possesses in this clique is important to the plot progress.

 

I wonder about the integrity of Nicole as the narrator.  Throughout the book she berates herself for being a poor mother (maybe rightly so…maybe she is being overly dramatic) as she becomes obsessed with Paige and her relationship with her adoptive daughter.   Nicole’s narration led me to a lot of questions.

How much did the narrator see herself in Paige?

Do we really want to know what goes on next door?

Do we really want to be bothered by other people’s problems?

What if he had the opportunity to know?  Would we really want the truth?

 

“Good fences make good neighbors.”

I just decided to make a cocktail (because there was a lot of social drinking in the novel).  I sipped while I pondered all of the questions this novel brought up.

Old Fashion

Serve these for your next neighborhood get together. (But, be careful how much you divulge to your neighbors after you imbibe a few.)

Ingredients

  • 1 t. super fine sugar
  • 3-4 dashes bitters
  • orange slice
  • water
  • 2-3 oz. bourbon
  • maraschino cherry

Instructions

  1. Place sugar in the bottom of a rocks glass. Sprinkle with the dashes of bitters and a few drops of water. Add the orange slice and muddle.
  2. Add bourbon and stir. Place lots of ice (or a large cube or sphere) in glass.
  3. Add cherry and top off with water (if needed).

Yield: 1 cocktail

The novel reminded me of Desperate Housewives a bit but without the comedy.   It’s about tragic lives.   Although the subject matter is dark, I enjoyed the author’s style.  I did think that Nicole might have needed some more depth and that we might have needed, as readers, some more insight into what made her tick.

I’m linking up with Foodies Reads for May.

 

Total aside:
I search for the best Old Fashion in my travels.  The best one I ever had was at Atlanta Airport Marriott Gateway  (I can’t dismiss the fact that this cocktail may have been so comforting because it was after a marathon day of trying to get home from Savannah through Hartsfield–Jackson and then ultimately to Tulsa.  From a 1:00 p.m. flight out of Savannah, we finally got home at 3:30 p.m. the next day.  See what I mean about needing a cocktail.)  The second best one was at Barrel & Pie in Canyon, TX where they brûléed the orange slice.   My rendition here is in the running for the best however.   The only way it could get better would be if we were sitting in a posh lounge and it was getting served to me on a silver tray like the characters when they were on the neighborhood cruise.  (Actually, who does that?  I think I would need a drink if I were going on vacation with a bunch of neighborhood acquaintances.)

I made another version recently using blood oranges and dark sweet cherries.  You might see that specific recipe posted up soon as well.

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