Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A young girl investigates a crime in her suburban neighborhood, uncovering family secrets and moral complexities in the process.

Introduction

"A Crime in the Neighborhood" by Suzanne Berne is a compelling and thought-provoking novel that delves into the complexities of human behavior and the impact of a traumatic event on a young girl's life. Set in a suburban neighborhood in the early 1970s, the story unfolds against the backdrop of a nation reeling from the Watergate scandal and the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Through the eyes of a ten-year-old girl, the novel explores themes of fear, suspicion, and the search for truth in the face of uncertainty.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview and Setting

"A Crime in the Neighborhood" is set in a quiet suburban neighborhood in the early 1970s. The story is narrated by Marsha, a ten-year-old girl who becomes entangled in the mystery surrounding a crime that shakes her community. Against the backdrop of national turmoil, including the Watergate scandal and the aftermath of the Vietnam War, Marsha's family grapples with their own internal struggles. As the novel unfolds, Marsha's observations and experiences shed light on the complexities of human relationships and the impact of external events on personal lives.

Main Characters

The novel features several main characters whose lives intertwine in the wake of the neighborhood crime.

CharacterDescription
MarshaThe ten-year-old narrator who becomes embroiled in the neighborhood crime and grapples with the complexities of the adult world.
Mr. GreenMarsha's enigmatic neighbor, who becomes a suspect in the neighborhood crime, sparking fear and suspicion among the residents.
Marsha's MotherA woman dealing with the challenges of single motherhood and navigating her own emotional turmoil.
Marsha's FatherA man struggling with the aftermath of divorce and attempting to rebuild his life while coping with personal demons.

Story Points Over Chapters

Chapter 1-3: The Crime Unfolds

Marsha narrates the seemingly idyllic suburban setting and introduces the reader to her family and neighbors. The tranquil neighborhood is shattered when a young boy is found murdered, sending shockwaves through the community.

Chapter 4-6: The Suspect

Mr. Green, a neighbor with a mysterious past, becomes the prime suspect in the neighborhood crime. Marsha grapples with a mix of fear and curiosity as she observes the adults' reactions to the unfolding events.

Chapter 7-9: Family Dynamics

Against the backdrop of the neighborhood's turmoil, Marsha's family grapples with their own internal struggles. Her mother's emotional state and her father's attempts to rebuild his life add layers of complexity to the narrative.

Chapter 10-12: Unraveling Truths

As the investigation unfolds, Marsha delves into her own investigation, seeking to uncover the truth behind the crime. Her observations and interactions with neighbors reveal the complexities of human behavior and the impact of fear and suspicion.

Chapter 13-15: Confronting Reality

Marsha's quest for the truth leads her to confront uncomfortable realities about the people around her and the nature of the world. The novel delves into the themes of innocence, betrayal, and the search for truth in the face of uncertainty.

Main Events

  • The discovery of the young boy's murder in the neighborhood.
  • The neighborhood's suspicion falling on Mr. Green as the prime suspect.
  • Marsha's personal exploration of the truth behind the crime.
  • The impact of the unfolding events on Marsha's family dynamics and her own understanding of the world.

Themes and Insights

Themes

  1. Fear and Suspicion: The novel explores the pervasive sense of fear and suspicion that permeates the neighborhood in the aftermath of the crime, reflecting the broader societal anxieties of the 1970s.
  2. Search for Truth: Marsha's quest to uncover the truth behind the crime reflects the human desire to seek clarity and understanding in the face of uncertainty.
  3. Impact of External Events: The backdrop of national events, such as the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War, highlights the impact of external turmoil on personal lives and relationships.

Insights

  • The novel offers insights into the complexities of human behavior and the ways in which fear and suspicion can shape individual actions and relationships.
  • Through Marsha's perspective, the reader gains insight into the nuances of childhood innocence and the gradual loss thereof in the face of harsh realities.

Reader's Takeaway

"A Crime in the Neighborhood" offers readers a compelling exploration of fear, suspicion, and the human quest for truth. Through the eyes of a young girl, the novel provides a poignant portrayal of the impact of external events on personal lives and relationships. Readers are invited to contemplate the complexities of human behavior and the enduring search for truth in the midst of uncertainty.

Conclusion

Suzanne Berne's "A Crime in the Neighborhood" captivates readers with its evocative portrayal of a 1970s suburban community grappling with a devastating crime. The novel delves into the themes of fear, suspicion, and the search for truth, offering readers a poignant exploration of human behavior and the impact of external events on personal lives. Through the eyes of the young narrator, the story unfolds with nuance and depth, inviting readers to contemplate the complexities of innocence, betrayal, and the enduring quest for understanding in the face of uncertainty.

A Crime in the Neighborhood FAQ

  1. What is the genre of 'A Crime in the Neighborhood'?

    The book falls under the genre of literary fiction and mystery.

  2. Who is the author of 'A Crime in the Neighborhood'?

    The author of 'A Crime in the Neighborhood' is Suzanne Berne.

  3. What is the setting of the book?

    The story is set in a suburban neighborhood in the 1970s, against the backdrop of the Watergate scandal.

  4. What is the main theme of the book?

    The main themes revolve around family dynamics, the impact of a crime on a community, and the complexities of memory and perception.

  5. Is 'A Crime in the Neighborhood' suitable for young adult readers?

    The book is more suitable for adult readers due to its mature themes and content.