Archive 2008 - 2019

Book Review -- The Woman Next Door

by The Publisher

The Woman Next Door by Yewande Osotoso

Reviewed by Kristina Carey, Holliston, MA

   Are grumpy old people capable of change and growth? Yewande Omotoso explores this question in her novel The Woman Next Door. The book follows two eighty-something-year old neighbors who bicker and antagonize each other. These two widows, one black and one white, have a lifetime of disappointments, secrets, and regrets. Barbados-born Hortensia James, a successful business owner, lives in Katterjin, an upscale neighborhood in Cape Town, South Africa. As Katterjn’s first black homeowner, she shares Number 10 with her white husband until she becomes a widow. Marion Agostino, the architect of Number 10, resides next door and harbors resentment toward Hortensia for living in the home she designed. An unexpected construction incident forces Hortensia and Marion to share living quarters, and this experience forces the women to become companions.

Marion and Hortensia alternately narrate the story, and provide tidbits about their past that lend complexity to the characters. This insight clues the reader in to the source of animosity and unhappiness for both Hortensia and Marion. Omotoso uses humor to balance the tension between the two women. Hortensia’s sharp tongue and caustic comments provide comic relief, and balance the emotionally charged topic of race that the book explores. Omotoso chooses to subtly address race relations and the complexity of the social climate of South Africa through relationships and dialogue rather than directly deal with the issue. Omotoso’s skill in exploring this topic through emotions and thoughts enlightens the reader and highlights the pervasive nature of racism. This tale of two cranky women will elicit chuckles from the reader while addressing the fundamental question of whether it is ever too late to change.