Neruda on the Park looks at the effects of gentrification and the efforts to combat it. The Guerreros live in Nothar Park, a New York City neighborhood with many immigrants from the Dominican Republic. There’s a strong sense of community that unites people, but people are now being displaced as new, expensive luxury condos are being built across the street.
Luz Guerrero is on the fast track to success working at a high-powered law firm when she is fired for no apparent reason. Determined to get back on the fast track, she sets about a job search but is soon distracted by the handsome, charming developer she is falling in love with. Her mother is obsessed with the new condo development being built by that same developer and comes up with a scheme to fight it. Her partners in crime are a group of older women called The Tongues because they are such malicious gossips. Her father is more focused on building a retirement home back in D.R. as a surprise for his wife.
Neruda on the Park is an excellent story with enduring characters that you cannot help but fall a bit in love with. The issue of gentrification is a salient one. What city doesn’t have neighborhoods being broken up and communities disrupted by gentrification and the rising prices that drive people out and disperse them far away from each other and the ties that made them a community?
I liked Luz and her parents, even her mother who became single-minded and went overboard in the battle against the condos. She came close to destroying the community in order to save it, but unlike the U.S. in Vietnam, she had more heart than that. There’s a lot of heart in this novel as well as plenty of humor, to leaven the more serious themes.
I received an e-galley of Neruda on the Park from the publisher through NetGalley.