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The Woman Next Door

A Novel

Yewande Omotoso


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ISBN10: 1250124573
ISBN13: 9781250124579

Trade Paperback

288 Pages


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In this story of two neighbors, Hortensia James and Marion Agostino, Omotoso explores the issues of race and gender. On the face of it, James and Agostino have more things in common, including desiring what the other has, than not, but their racial differences seem to triumph all. Omotoso questions whether it is possible for them to bridge the gaps that exist between them, or have the bridges been burnt too such an extent that reconciliation is an impossible pipe dream.


Praise for The Woman Next Door

"[The Woman Next Door] takes off in surprising ways, sometimes to shocking effect as instances of racial cruelty are recalled, or upsetting at a different level, when the descendants of former slaves make a valid claim for restitution . . . The novel’s complex plot and convincing characters develop beautifully together and are lightened throughout with flashes of excellent comedy."The Washington Post

"A tale of a rivalry between two well-to-do widows and next-door-neighbors in South Africa . . . On the surface, author Yewande Omotoso presents a war of wits, but the story also addresses the history of colonialism, slavery, class and race as tensions come to a head."Time

"With humor and charm, [The Woman Next Door] depicts the collapse of a feud between two elderly women—one white, one black—in a tony Cape Town suburb. Call it a female take on Grumpy Old Men."O, The Oprah Magazine

"Omotoso treats her characters and themes delicately and deftly, allowing their complexities to naturally reveal themselves . . . The Woman Next Door is a thought-provoking representation of timely issues, peppered with smart humor and unforgettably fantastic female protagonists."The Riveter

"Cape Town's answer to Mapp and Lucia, a war of wits and witticisms amid the bougainvillea of an impossibly smug neighborhood. Yewande Omotoso's deft writing and subtle weaving in of difficult history will leave you in love with these two stubborn old women. Delightful."—Helen Simonson, The New York Times bestselling author of The Summer Before the War and Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

"At once historical and contemporary, The Woman Next Door is charged with beauty, precision, nuance, and hope. Yewande Omotoso is a stunning, essential voice."—NoViolet Bulawayo, author of We Need New Names

"Yewande Omotoso's voice is exciting and fresh. The aesthetic and political engagement in her work is explored through a deep compassion for her characters and their social positions and constraints, without compromising on a fierce yet tender interrogation of their inner lives: race, place and the social web of expectation versus the freedom of an inner life, a complexity of self that she works out through beautiful and uplifting language."—Chris Abani, author of The Secret History of Las Vegas and The Face: A Cartography of the Void

"Although new to the scene, Yewande Omotoso writes with the skill, intelligence, and compassion of an old master. One of the astonishing achievements of The Woman Next Door is her ability to see all sides of a story. Only such keenness of vision could produce this enlightening and eloquent novel that serves as a testament to a truth that we seldom hear: through honest exchange, it is possible for us to free ourselves from the terrible hauntings of history."—Jeffery Renard Allen, author of Song of the Shank and Rails Under My Back

"[The Woman Next Door] made me howl with laughter and it made me cry."—Biyi Bandele, author of The King's Rifle and director of Half of a Yellow Sun

“[A] provocative, enlightening, and at times outrageously funny novel . . . With an acutely perceptive eye, Omotoso paints a picture of the subtle changes in [Marion and Hortensia's] interactions. As their snipes and barbs morph into attempts at understanding, their personal growth reminds the reader of what is still occurring, on a grander scale, in the country these memorable women call home.”BookPage

"A pleasing tale of reconciliation laced with acid humor and a cheery avoidance of sentimentality."Kirkus Reviews

“Omotoso's warm and witty story is more complex than a simple tale of black and white . . . Like Helen Simonson’s Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, which also depicts the wisdom found in aging, this novel will have universal appeal.”Library Journal

"Omotoso captures the changing racial relations since the 1950s, as well as the immigrant experience through personal detail and small psychological insights into mixed emotions, the artist's eye, and widow's remorse. Hers is a fresh voice as adept at evoking the peace of walking up a kopje as the cruelty of South Africa's past."Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt


The habit of walking was something Hortensia took up
after Peter fell ill. Not at the beginning of his sickness,
but later, when he turned seriously ill, bedridden. It had
been a Wednesday. She remembered because Bassey...

About the author

Yewande Omotoso

YEWANDE OMOTOSO was born in Barbados and grew up in Nigeria, moving to South Africa with her family in 1992. She is the author of Bom Boy, published in South Africa in 2011. In 2012, she won the South African Literary Award for First-Time Published Author and was shortlisted for the South African Sunday Times Fiction Prize. In 2013, she was a finalist in the inaugural pan-African Etisalat Fiction Prize. She lives in Johannesburg, where she writes and has her own architectural practice.

(c) Victor Dlamini

Yewande Omotoso