Monday, September 11, 2023

Aubrey Nye Hamilton Reviews: Perfectly Nice Neighbors by Kia Abdullah

Kia Abdullah’s latest thriller, Perfectly Nice Neighbors (Putnam, 2023), published in the U.K. as Those People Next Door (Harper Collins, 2023), takes the reader to a middle-class community in London, where Salma and Bilal Khatun and their teen-aged son Zain have moved to get away from a less desirable part of the city. From the beginning, differences between them and their neighbors arise. Their neighbor objects to the “Black Lives Matter” banner that Zain posts in the Khatun front yard. Salma finds it on the ground a few times and then she sees the neighbor knock it down. She confronts him and he is furious that she dared to challenge him. Complaints about parking and cooking smells ensue. Salma’s car is damaged. All the while, the unofficial community president and busybody keeps advising Salma that the neighborhood is nice and that she should try to fit in.

Zain records one of the confrontations between the neighbor and his mother, and he posts it to Twitter. The image of the large white man looming over the smaller brown woman goes viral, and the neighbor loses his job. Tension skyrockets, between the neighbors and between Salma and Bilal, who wants his wife to back down and ignore the abuse. He’s worried about money, having lost his restaurant during the pandemic shutdown; the family is barely making ends meet. They cannot afford to move again. Salma thinks that the meanness has to be faced or it will never stop.

The outcome of the animosity is completely unexpected and changes both families forever.

Abdullah describes the attempts of second- and third-generation immigrants in England to create a home and to go about their business while being viewed askance by those whose families have been in the country much longer. It makes for painful reading. Racism and intolerance appear in the most unlikely places; Abdullah makes it her mission to display the uncompromising reality.

The role of social media in polarizing contemporary society does not escape her eagle eye. The speed that word spread about the conflict via Twitter drew the line between the two families more deeply and left little room for easy resolution of their differences.

Abdullah is one of those contemporary thriller writers who tells a good story while highlighting serious social issues. It isn’t hard to see parallels between the experience of immigrants in the U.K. and here in the U.S. Her books are not easy to read but they always give me a lot to think about. Recommended.

·         Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons (September 12, 2023)

·         Language: English

·         Paperback: 352 pages

·         ISBN-10: 0593713818

·         ISBN-13: 978-0593713815


Aubrey Nye Hamilton ©2023 

Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.

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