Cover image for Good fences : a novel
Good fences : a novel
Ellis, Erika.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Random House, [1997]

Physical Description:
216 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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In this exciting novel, an upwardly mobile black family moves to the affluent suburbs--with dramatic, sexy, funny, and provocative results. Mabel Turner, born and raised in the small and all-black town of Lovejoy, Illinois, meets and marries Tom Spader, a driven man, who shares her dreams of the good life. Together they flee Lovejoy, Tom becomes a successful attorney at a prestigious law firm, and eventually they move to Greenwich, Connecticut. At first, life in the elite suburb is like paradise--they seem to have finally knocked down the fences between themselves and the white American dream. But soon they discover that some of the highest fences are the ones they cannot see. The kids act up and out, and Mabel feels she has to hide who she really is, secreting Jet magazine under her fancy new sofa cushions and serving expensive gourmet cookies to the other PTA mothers. In the novel's startling climax, these problems are suddenly overshadowed by the very odd behavior of Mabel's neighbors, and of Tom, too. Fresh, illuminating, and written in a captivating voice, Good Fences introduces a strong new fiction talent, with a can't-put-it-down story.

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Ellis presents a splendid first novel covering 17 years in a determinedly upwardly mobile African American family. Attorney Tom Spader works himself from a research associate's position in a law firm to appointment as a judge, trying to leave his blackness behind. After Tom gets his first big case, he never looks back. He moves his wife and children into progressively larger houses in ever whiter neighborhoods and, when the time for college arrives, encourages his children to attend prestigious eastern schools rather than the traditionally black schools they might prefer. Eventually Tom's existence leads him to commit an act of violence to prevent other black families from moving into his community. Despite Tom's occasionally over-the-top behavior, Ellis is not unsympathetic to him; the section of the novel that explores Tom's childhood is beautifully handled. Ellis' portrayal of the children is less successful, because it is difficult to believe their naivete. Nevertheless, this satiric look at living black in a white world is a good choice for public libraries of all sizes. --Nancy Pearl