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'The Neighbor' by Bernadette Chapman

The Neighbor - Bernadette Chapman

“We’re all a little weird. And life is weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love.” ~ Robert Fulghum (True Love: Stories Told to and by Robert Fulghum)

When Anders's new neighbor, Finch, moves in, he soon finds the best way to deal with him is to go along with whatever Finch wants to do at the moment, regardless of how odd or repulsive it sounds; he's so persistent that arguing with him is futile. Soon everyone in the neighborhood is taking part in the effort to help Anders get more out of life. Anders reaches the point where he realizes his well-organized life is much too constrictive. It doesn't allow any surprise, joy, or companionship; things Anders never thought he wanted or needed.  

Anders thinks he's content in his strict schedule. He does almost the same thing every day.   Anders sees nothing wrong with his routine. His social skills are terrible; he has no friends but that's by choice. People are too unpredictable. Any change makes him feel off balance and out of control. When Finch bursts into his house demanding sugar, without even introducing himself, understandably Anders feels as if he's been invaded. Finch epitomizes everything Anders dislikes. Finch is handsome, impulsive, spontaneous, friendly, and likable. Finch begins to drag Anders out of his “safe place” and into the “real' world”, by giving him new experiences. Even though Anders doesn't quite understand how he accomplishes it, he follows Finch, not wanting to admit he enjoys being with him. Even more, once he does whatever harebrained thing Finch comes up with, Anders often enjoys it.

Anders is still having an internal conflict between wanting his life to be how it was before and enjoying how it is now. When Finch states: "I'm going to remove you from this incessant rut you've gotten yourself stuck in, and I'm going to fix you.", Anders is furious and shuts the door in his face. Finch considers it for a few days, then decides that Anders has a point; everybody is weird in their own way and if Anders is happy in his “weirdness” then Finch has no right to try to change him. Finch decides to take a different approach. He no longer tries to change Anders but shows him how good life can be with some spontaneity in it. Just as Anders begins to be comfortable in his new life, Finch suddenly stops coming over. Even worse than disrupting his routine, he learns Finch has been seen around town with another man. Anders avoids personal involvement because of the pain it may cause, but he is involved with Finch. Anders tries to tell himself that he and Finch were just friends after all, but his emotional turmoil indicates their relationship has far more significance and Anders has no idea what to do.

I really liked this quirky “British-flavored” love story. Besides being a “no man is an island” kind of theme, it's full of lots of tongue-in-cheek humor which had me laughing out loud. Anders is adorably eccentric and most definitely OCD. Finch is over-the-top irresistible and lovingly “weird”. What an odd couple they seem; but they both have something the other needs, whether they are aware of it or not. If you like different love stories, with whacky characters, and good intentioned people, this story may appeal to you. Thanks, Bernadette, for the charming, witty story.