Ah, the suburbs. Matchy-matchy houses, sidewalks, greeting the neighbors, the sounds of children playing. It’s where Americans want to raise their families, right? Julie Langsdorf’s White Elephant takes readers inside a development in Northern Virginia in which the suburban utopia is being replaced by high drama.
When a construction magnate purchases a few homes in Willard Park, then begins to level and build massive new houses in their place, his neighbors resent the intrusion. Everyone in Willard Park has homes that were purchased from a Sears catalog after World War II, and they’re fine. I mean, they each have one bathroom and they’re very small. But they are fine. They’re livable.
Tensions boil over when the “new neighbor,” Nick Cox, is suspected of cutting down trees around Willard Park in addition to his other sins (of building large, ugly monstrosities). His wife and children aren’t welcomed with open arms, and the neighbors begin to harbor secrets. They want to add on to their homes, or they are unhappy with their spouse/job/life.
White Elephant was an interesting read, and it reminded me of “Little Fires Everywhere,” which I also enjoyed. It had less of a lasting impact, maybe because the ending was a bit of a letdown. Some of the characters were more well-drawn than others, and I was actually left to wonder about the motivations of some. Either way, it was compelling enough.