The Good Neighbor
Jay Quinn
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Buy *The Good Neighbor* by Jay Quinn online

The Good Neighbor
Jay Quinn
Alyson Books
298 pages
May 2007
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Rory Fallon and his partner, Bruno, have been living at the Venetian Vistas upscale-gated community in Southern Florida for about two years, when one morning, they meet their new neighbors - Austin Harden, his wife Meg, and their two young boys, Noah and Josh.

Rory and Bruno have been a couple for nearly seventeen years, having spent most of their lives living in family-type neighborhoods as Bruno steadily works his way up the corporate ladder. They are the first to admit they have never met more than a handful of neighbors, certainly none who needed anything other than a nod or a smile.

The arrival of Meg and Austin is a refreshing change. Austin even remembers Rory and Bruno from his college days and sees them as curiously insular and comfortably coupled now as they had been then. He makes an instant connection with Rory, drawn to the younger man's youthful vulnerability and artistic temperament.

Meg is the undisputed boss of the family, an aggressive corporate lawyer and a self-admitted perfectionist; she works hard to provide a stylish home for her devoted husband and her children. A victim of downsizing, Austin loafs around, working part time pushing medical equipment while ferrying Noah and Josh between school and soccer practice.

As the couples get to know each other, each begins to pursue separate agendas, uniting in a type of emotional and sexual addiction. Meg hides her entrenched homophobia over a veneer of pleasant amicability, while privately waxing to Austin about having gays for neighbors: "what kind of life is that no matter how devoted to each other it just goes against the grain somehow." But one night, the sight of Rory and Bruno's romantic coupling turns Austin on in a deeply "male kind of way" and his desire to be physical with Rory grows from a mild distraction into an ever-increasing itch. He becomes ever more open to the possibilities of an abstract kind of sexual availability that Rory presents.

In rich, languid and perfectly nuanced prose, author Jay Quinn traces the arc of each character - particularly Austin and Rory as they become embroiled in a surreptitious affair. Neither Rory, Bruno, Austin nor Meg are particularly sympathetic or likable characters; all are rather status-conscious and bourgeois, quick to form caustic judgments about each other and almost always wounded by their own faults.

Meg is threatened by the world of masculinity around her, while Bruno, the hairy, butch and truculent pig-headed egotist, carries on as though he owns Rory. For his part, Rory incessantly feeds Bruno's ego, telling him he loves him because that's what Bruno wants and needs to hear.

The enigma of masculinity and the complexities of modern sexual fluidity are the central themes of The Good Neighbor, with Quinn ingeniously casting a unique spell over many of the assumptions and stereotypes of suburban family life. These are shallow adults both gay and straight - who have inadvertently mixed up sex, love and friendship, feverishly hoping that it will all work out.

The characters in The Good Neighbor eventually discover that what really hurts and what really kills is the sense of betrayal that ultimately comes along with messing in this kind territory. For Austin, there is a defined price to be paid for touching and loving another male, and as these neighbors come full circle and eventually move on with their lives, this basically heterosexual man is forced to confront and meet head-on his most basic nature.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Michael Leonard, 2006

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