Salma and Bilal have just moved to Blenheim, a suburb of London, which they hope will offer a new start for the Khatun family as they want to provide a safer neighborhood for their son Zain. They meet their new neighbors at a community barbecue and hope for the best in their mostly white neighborhood. Soon after, Salma witnesses next-door neighbor Tom Hutton taking down Zain's "Black Lives Matter" banner from their front yard. Outraged, Salma, a strong-willed teacher, puts the banner in their window only to soon find that the window has been painted over. So begins the back-and-forth tensions with Tom and his wife Willa. When confronted by Salma, Tom claims the banner was in violation of the community guidelines and denies painting the window. But he gets out of control blurting racially insensitive remarks, all caught on video by Zain, who has developed a friendship with the Hutton's son Jamie. As things escalate further, the situation gets uglier and dangerous.
In Perfectly Nice Neighbors (released earlier this year in the UK as Those People Next Door,) talented author Kia Abdullah has provided a gritty, thought-provoking domestic thriller. It deals with deep rooted prejudices, class differences, accusations, rushes to judgement and many more complexities of life. Things spiral out of control so quickly that it got very uncomfortable reading. It's worth getting through the cringy feelings as the book offers Abdullah's excellent twists and surprises. An engaging book with a relevant message. Check it out.
Many thanks to G.P. Putnam's Sons for the advance copy.
Rated 4 out of 5 stars.
Publication Date: September 12, 2023.
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