The Lily Cafe is thrilled for the opportunity to participate in the book blog tour for The Mother Next Door by Tara Laskowski! This thriller is perfect for October with Halloween right around the corner.
Title: The Mother Next Door
Author: Tara Laskowkski
Publisher: Graydon House
Publication date: October 12, 2021
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…
The Mother Next Door is a great Halloween thriller that brings a perfectly picturesque and eerie neighborhood, and secrets galore. It’s all about Halloween, past and present, and how the past, present, and future collide. While I found it to be a bit predictable and the characterizations lackluster, I adored Ivy Woods and enjoyed the slow peeling back to expose the various secrets of many of the characters. I really liked that The Mother Next Door focuses on a group of mothers who seem to rule Ivy Woods, and just how exclusive the group really is. Overall, this is a fun thriller perfect for Halloween.
Years ago, Theresa was a college student on the periphery of Ivy Woods, a highly desirable street to live on. Now, she’s the wife of the high school’s new principal and the mother of a high school freshman. Now, she’s desperate to fit in, to be noticed by the Ivy Five, which has really been four for years, but she’s perfect for the last spot.
The Ivy Five is a group of four mothers led by Kendra, the one who has it all together and plans the most amazing Halloween party ever every year. They’re an exclusive group bound by motherhood and secrets, the kind of group you want to join. But, this Halloween, secrets are about to be unraveled, the past is about to come back, and Theresa might not be an entirely new and innocent face on Ivy Woods.
The Mother Next Door is a fun, eerie Halloween thriller. Set during the month of October, both in the present day and some years in the past, everything in and around Ivy Woods is centered around the incredible Halloween street party the Ivy Five plans and hosts every year. It’s the place to be, the thing to take part in. But something terrible happened years ago, an accident or a murder, who knows, but the legend of the Ghost Girl lives on, and someone has an idea of what might have actually happened.
As a thriller set during the Halloween season, I was a little hesitant to pick up this one, but I’m really loving books about moms and motherhood, so I decided to close one eye and jump. Ultimately, there’s a real creepy vibe throughout the book, one that might just make you think someone’s peeking in on you, but it was also a bit predictable to me.
Ivy Woods felt like the quintessential autumnal street. A cul-de-sac bordered by woods where there’s a creepy bridge and the story of a girl who died after being jilted, I could practically hear the dry leaves skittering around and wanted nothing more than to pull my sweater tighter around me. The autumn vibes were amazing and really made me believe I was there. The descriptions were spot on and kept me immersed in this little street. It also expanded to the high school and a university, but neither felt particularly fleshed out. Everything went into Ivy Woods, which was fun, but made the outside world a bit dull.
The story, too, was just a little too predictable to me. I felt the one behind it all was a little too obvious, even though a few small paths opened up and made wonder a little. Still, it was fun to find out more of their motivations and their story. Overall, there was a nice unfolding of the story, like pulling back layer after layer. I did feel it took a little too long and sometimes the story got a little hung up on some details, repeating them to keep the story going a little longer, but it was kind of fun to shuffle along and find out the big picture little by little. Even if it was a little predictable. And even though I felt like all the characters were forever hung up on another one to the point where it was boring and repetitive and I just wanted someone to jump out and say, “Boo!”
The Mother Next Door follows three people: Theresa, Kendra, and an unknown third who is telling about a Halloween. I enjoyed all three of them, but, between them and the rest of the Ivy Five, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of personality going on. One of the Ivy Five was a Southern sweetheart who only seemed to exist in one way and the other two were continually getting scrambled in my head. Since Kendra is really the only one of the original Ivy Five who gets to tell her story, it was easier to get to know her, but she’s so polished and put together that I felt like everything she gave was just a front. Theresa was fun as the outsider trying so hard, but she also lacked personality. It was hard to tell what was her and what was her trying to be one of the Ivy Five. It didn’t help she had so many secrets of her own that she took pains to hide from the reader, so it was really difficult to get to know her, too. The only truly interesting perspective was the unknown third narrator’s. For a while, I couldn’t quite tell if it was set in the future or the past, but it slowly came to light in a most chilling way. Even though I had no clue whose story it was, the whole thing gave me the shivers. It was dripping with hate and derision and said so much about the person behind it. I couldn’t quite tell if it was fictionalized or factual, which made me all the more desperate to find out what really happened.
Overall, though, the characters were lackluster. They never seemed to changed, never showed any growth. Most of the minor characters felt like cut outs. All the men behaved the same way, the children were just kind of wild, and even Theresa’s husband seemed perpetually in a good, clueless mood. Some felt a little too off-hand about things and some refused to take accountability for their actions. It was sometimes annoying and baffling at how they managed to get so far.
Ultimately, even though the characters lacked personality and the story was predictable, the peeling back of layers and secrets and watching the past and present collide really was worth it. I loved the Halloween vibes The Mother Next Door provided, and I’ll be looking at mother groups with a different eye. It was so much fun to read about all their secrets and the way they impacted their lives and decisions.
How many cups of tea will you need?
About Tara Laskowski
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.
Connect with Tara Laskowski
Thank you to Justine Sha for a review copy and the opportunity to take part in the book blog tour for The Mother Next Door. All opinions expressed are my own.