Friday, June 17, 2022


Welcome to the Neighborhood
by: Lisa Roe
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Release Date: April 5, 2022
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
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A heartwarming and life-affirming story of family dynamics, mother/daughter relationships, and second chances—perfect for fans of Maria Semple and Abbi Waxman.

After years of struggling to make ends meet, Queens single mom Ginny falls for sweet, divorced Jeff, and relishes the idea of moving with her quirky eleven-year-old daughter Harri to his home in an upscale New Jersey suburb. Though she’s never been impressed by material things, she is thrilled that getting a second chance at love comes with the added bonus of finally giving Harri everything she never could before.

And then she meets the neighbors.

Ginny is quickly thrust into the complicated realities of a neighborhood defined by the ever-shifting alliances of PTA moms, Real Housewife contenders, and their mean-girl daughters. When the neighbors’ secrets, back-stabbing, and bad behavior take a devastating toll on her daughter and new marriage, Ginny must decide what really matters—and protect it at all costs.

Harri and I sit opposite each other at a white Formica-topped table sprinkled with pink and turquoise fifties boomerang shapes, a Nutella cupcake with a peanut butter center in front of her, poppy seed with pistachio frosting in front of me.

Buttercupcakes, a bakery/cafĂ© that makes unicorns and rainbows and fairies look dull in comparison, was one of our discoveries when we moved here, and after that first visit, we declared it “our place.”

I didn’t end up spending today painting. By the time Margot dismissed us—by standing up abruptly and carrying the tray of uneaten pastries into the kitchen—my mind was swirling with ideas for a Modern Cinderella theme.

I decided a trip to Goodwill (where else would a modern Cinderella shop?) and the craft store were in order. I was excited and I knew the hamster running on the wheel in my head wouldn’t rest until I had figured out whether my seemingly genius ideas could actually be executed.

Before we left, Margot assigned Pastry Woman, who I then found out was named Kim, to assist me.

“I’m looking forward to working together,” said Kim as we walked to her car. “But I have to let you know, I’m not creative. I’m not really an idea person. And I suck at art. And crafts.”

“That’s okay,” I said. “I’m actually going to do some shopping now, you know, to see what’s out there. Why don’t you come with me and we’ll do some brainstorming?”

“Oh, I’d love to. But I have to be at the club. We’ve got tennis. But you let me know what you find.”

I realized immediately there would be limits to Kim’s assistance. At least I knew I wouldn’t be fighting her for creative control of the fifth-grade fashion show. Buzzing with the same excitement I felt when I started a new painting, I headed out. By the time I got home, it was too late to go up to the studio and it was almost time to pick up Harri.

At three on the dot I was outside the school. I had come in the correct entrance and parked the car in a legal spot, feeling a sense of accomplishment and the satisfaction of learning the routine. Tomorrow it will be old hat. A bell rang and the children tumbled out of the building. Harri walked out alone and scanned the parking lot. When she found me, she ran, her head bent forward, a hand on each of strap of her backpack. When she reached me, we hugged and I felt relieved she made it through the day and guilty that I had been so involved in my new project I hadn’t been thinking about her every minute she was gone.

Harri held onto our hug too long. Every Harri hug has its own timing—the good-night hug, the thanks-for-the-gift or the help or the pep-talk hug, and the I-missed-you-today hug. There is a rhythm to each. I know their timing like a bird knows to start singing as the sun rises. And this one was too long.

“Tough day at the office?” I asked when she let me go.

“It was okay.”

She shrugged out of her backpack and climbed into the car. I drove straight to Buttercupcakes. I didn’t need to ask her if she wanted to go.

I stick my finger in the pistachio buttercream and lick it off. Holy cow, a cupcake like this could solve a lot of world problems.

“So, tell me about your day.”

Harri breaks her treat in half and puts the bottom on top of the frosting, turning it into a cupcake sandwich. She holds it in both hands, takes a huge bite, and then talks with a mouth full of peanut butter and chocolate crumbs.

“They have a display of dioramas in a glass case in the hallway. One was of the Mesozoic Era. It had actual plastic dinosaurs instead of making them out of clay, like we did that one time.”

“Well, it all sounds very professional.”

“Yeah, I’m sure whoever’s parent made most of it for them. We hate that.”

“We do hate that. What else?”

“My teacher is okay. Mrs. Parson. One of her eyes goes the other way.” She puts her hand up to her glasses and points her finger off on a diagonal, leaving a smudge of chocolate on her cheek. “You know, like Ethan Claypoole’s did before he had that operation.”

“You’re not planning to suggest to her she have an operation?”

I know my kid.

“I’m thinking about it. It fixed Ethan.”

“How about you wait a bit, ’til you get to know Mrs. Parson a little better?”

Harri shrugs. Her cupcake is gone. She is eyeing mine.

“Oh, and get this, right?” she adds. “So, all the English books we’re going to read this year are lined up on the ledge of the blackboard. And guess what? I’ve read all of them!”

“Did you tell your teacher that?”

“Yup, and guess what? She said I can go to the library and pick out all new books. I still have to participate in class discussions on the books she has. But she said I could read new ones and write my papers on those.”

“Well, that is very nice of her.”

“Yeah, that part is good. I guess.”


Harri licks a bit of frosting from her upper lip. I slide my half-finished cupcake toward her and she looks down at it but doesn’t eat it.

“But I don’t think this is going to work out.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know,” she says, but she does. “The girls, they’re okay, I guess. But I don’t think they like me.”

I feel the crack in my heart but I press my lips so it does not show on my face.

“Oh, Harri, it’s just the very first day. They just need a little time to get to know you. But I guarantee they are going to love you.”

I think about that closed circle of girls. Like a jar of vibrant jellybeans, different colors but all the same. “Hey,” I say, extending my pinkie across the table. “Best kid ever, right?”

She doesn’t take my finger. She doesn’t “best mom ever” me back. She leaves me hanging and touches the blue lace agate necklace I lent her this morning to ease her first-day jitters.

“This girl asked me about my crystal,” she says. “When I explained, she laughed at me and asked me if I was a hippie. And then the other girls started laughing. Including Jacqueline. What’s wrong with being a hippie?”

“Wearing a crystal doesn’t make you a hippie,” I say. “But even if it did, hippies are cool. Some of my best friends are hippies.”

Purchase Welcome to the Neighborhood from:

This all started when my marshmallow fell off its stick and landed in the fire.

As my lower lip jutted in disappointment, the lost sweet began to melt—well, burn to a crisp really—and as it caught fire it looked to me, a little girl obsessed with horses, like a fiery pony’s tail.

That’s when I wrote my first novel, Foal of the Flames—all five pages of it. I was eight years old.

I hadn’t yet been diagnosed with the dyslexia that made writing and reading challenging for me, so it must have been pretty bad.

It’d be decades before I tried to write a book again.

But that didn’t stop my vivid imagination from carrying me through the rest of my life.

I was born into a family of writers and artists. As a young child lying in bed at night, I could hear my father’s Royal manual typewriter—the keys clacking as he wrote—with what must have been very strong fingers—his own novel. My mom was a potter who spent many weekends at crafts fairs with her artist friends. Putting on plays with my siblings in the backyard, making crafts out of coffee cans, or broken pieces of tile, or clay found at a nearby riverbank seemed as normal as breathing.

We were that artsy family who once lived in a Frank Lloyd Wright house—the Bachman-Wilson house, now a museum—look it up, it’s very cool—although I didn’t think so at the time. I thought it was weird and not like my friends’ regular homes and I sometimes resented my parents for making us live there. Ah, youth.

It was a unique childhood to say the least, one that fostered creativity and imagination. But teenage angst and adult distractions, pulled me away from it all. After college, I worked for many years as an advertising copywriter, at first relishing the idea of finding my creative roots again. Alas, writing ads for banks and athlete’s foot spray didn’t bring the joie de vie I was hoping for.

It wasn’t until I packed it all in to take on a much tougher job—stay-at-home-mom—that I found the spark again. I filled our house with endless art supplies, got very crafty, sewed costumes, and conjured up stories to entertain my kids. Ask them about Hooligan and Schmatzee.

And then, at fifty I rediscovered fiction writing—yes, I’m the poster child for it-is-never-too-late—and I’m grateful to have found my way back. Although it would be years and many unpublished manuscripts before I was in the auspicious position of needing a website to share this­ story and my books with you! The eight-year-old writing about ponies would have never believed it.

Places to find Lisa Roe:

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