The Neighborhood by Brian C. Conley

October 20, 2011 

The Neighborhood Brian Conley’s second novel memorializes his old neighborhood Forest Heights Park in Baton Rouge Louisiana. It’s a fictional account–a combination of mystery and coming of age tale. The novel varies to some degree from the standard whodunit formula nevertheless it is full of colorful quirky characters and dysfunctional families. The first half is devoted to getting to know the victim 14 year old Bridget and her circle of friends particularly smitten suitors Deucy and Kyle. Bridget a lovely dark skin girl is Charles Thibadeaux’s daughter born out of wedlock to a woman not his wife but his true love. Bridget’s mother dies forcing Charles to bring her to live with his wife and two daughters of the approximate same age.

Charles Thibadeaux is a pillar of the community and by introducing his dark skin child into his perfectly blue vein bourgeois household it antagonizes his wife with dividing loyalties between their daughters. Like Cinderella dealing with an evil step mother and one evil step sister Bridget copes focused more on her desires for Kyle. With a discontent wife Charles Thibadeaux is driven to drink. Bridget’s celebrates her 14th birthday with a community pool party ending with her mysterious death. Vigilante neighbors go into action, secrets of past scandalous behavior are revealed while dredging up old resentments. The Neighborhood touches on themes of jealousy, sibling rivalries, colorism, and religious hypocrisy. Full of vivid details and richly drawn characters most of whom have issues Conley captures the experience of the provincial Southern African-American community and small town pathos.

The ability to use the different points of view is one measure of a person’s writing skill. While the general rule is for novels to adopt a single approach to point of view throughout, there are exceptions. Conley takes exception with perhaps too many points of view but when it comes to good writing he exhibits extraordinary skill as an evolving talent. The author does a great job, but I wonder how much better this tale would be with a cohesive narrative voice. There are currently too many young new writers publishing a too much pulp, but the cream rises to the top and Brian Conley on his way up. You can bet he won’t go unnoticed for long. I highly recommend The Neighborhood with great anticipation for his next. 5 Stars

Disclaimer: This information and review are the opinions of the individual reviewer. Black Literature Magazine cannot be held accountable. The reviewer takes full responsibility for the information and opinions presented.

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