Review: My Vertical Neighborhood

My Vertical Neighborhood, Lynda MacGibbon (Foreword by Michael Frost). Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021.

Summary: The author’s account of moving from a small eastern Canada town to a Toronto highrise and how strangers became neighbors that she learned to love.

Lynda MacGibbon transferred for work reasons from a small eastern Canada town to Toronto, moving into a highrise. She had wanted to learn how to love her neighbors but for months couldn’t get beyond brief greetings and small talk. Then she found a partner, a co-worker named Rachel who loved to cook, and after prayer, proposed that they host dinners in Rachel’s tiny apartment. They began with a party that turned into a weekly dinner. At first it was only the two of them, and then Elizabeth, and Fran, and Nicolai and Yolanda and her son Luka…and then Brian.

Brian lived large, loved food, and was a gay man with many lovers. He had strong opinions, that even turned some off. But Rachel and Lynda welcomed him, first to dinners, and then the Writing Group. And he kept coming, along with his parrot and made his way into their lives. They spent one day searching as a group of friends for that parrot when he was separated from Brian. Later, Brian went out for a day with Lynda–she thought an hour but he wanted a day, going all through Toronto.

MacGibbon tells a story of the power of a partner, of learning to love unconditionally even those with zero interest in their faith, of the joy of sharing good food, and the hard lesson of neighbors looking out for each other, when they had not heard from Fran for several days only to learn she had died in her apartment. She also discovered that loving means becoming vulnerable–opening up her own stories and pain and not just listening to others, or even going dancing for an evening with Brian in a nightclub. It meant getting hurt and learning to forgive.

This book is an invitation to become open to loving our neighbors, not just in theory but in practice–whether we live in apartment complexes, high rises, old neighborhoods with porches or those with attached garages and fenced in back yards. It’s an invitation to share food, to celebrate, and to begin to take the risk of not only opening our doors but our lives.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher.

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