Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines's take on Those People.
In her engaging suburban drama, Candlish excels in crafting situations where good people can act immorally while others pay the price. Those People shows the importance of having a moral compass, a system of belief which emphasizes concern for others. Candlish introduces us to the folk at Lowland Way: Ralph and his wife, Naomi, the cofounder of a website for mums of preschoolers. Someone in the neighborhood has been killed and the new neighbors, Darren and Jody Booth, are being blamed for the tragedy.
Lowland is a well-to-do community, which makes it all the more outrageous when Booth arrives and embarks on a series of renovations while selling used cars and trucks in his front yard. Ralph, Naomi and their neighbors--Ralph's brother, Finn, and wife, Tess--are overwhelmed by Booth's audacity. Ralph struggles to reconcile his horror at the "wall demolition" that leaves a mountain of bricks and rubble on the Booths' lawn. With the nervous exhilaration of a renewed battle, Ralph makes his first mistake. He regrets the way he handles his first interaction with Booth, joining Finn and Tess for a meet-and-greet in the hope that they can all live peacefully together.
Booth, with his bulging forehead and flat boxer's nose, is routinely insolent and rude: "I see who you are, but I know you're no better than me." Sissy Watkins worries about her Airbnb business while Anthony and Emma, who live next-door to Booth, privately lament that once they wouldn't have cared about someone like Booth--the old walls or cars being repaired in neighbors' front gardens. No one in Lowland is safe. The inevitable tragedy is blamed on Darren and "his horrible wife," who tells the police she's on medication and was in a drunken coma the night before the accident that leaves one person dead.
The novel unrolls what happens when an average person quietly but intentionally seizes an opportunity to exploit and manipulate for their own benefit. Sissy looks back on how confident they'd all been in the notion of "the Authorities," imagining they could put a stop to a neighbor who chooses to run a repair workshop from his wasteland of a front garden without consequence. Might the residents have misjudged the situation with the press, even mistaken opportunity for a threat? From Ralph and Finn's desperate form of vigilante justice to Ant, who hopes that exposure to Sissy's grief will help put Em's own predicament into perspective, Candlish lays it all on the line: "You've made my home intolerable to live in, you've stolen my son's right to proper sleep and you're well on your way to wrecking my marriage."
Sissy is a particularly poignant character who looks to her daughter-in-law for comfort and acceptance. She's placed all her hopes and dreams of a comfortable retirement in the revenue from her house. Tess is a troubled person, so wrapped up in her cygnets in the nests a short stroll down Lowland Way. Tess hides her feelings, hoping others won't see her hurting. Her need for comfort, acceptance and assurance seems to take priority over getting Booth out of her life.
How do you respond to someone whose values are so estranged from your own? As the characters find themselves caught up in Booth's unruly behavior, Candlish uncovers the dark depths to that average-looking neighbor. Those People is a sometimes comic but ultimately sad commentary on our perceptions of civic-mindedness and the fragile confidence we place in honesty and decency.