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My Vertical Neighborhood

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I am very passionate about neighboring. I was excited to read this story as it's something so close to me. I enjoyed MacGibbon's take on neighboring. She moves into an apartment building and experiences the typical isolation that comes with that type of living. Over time MacGibbon decides to extend invites to her neighbors to everyday gatherings- dinner, Bible studies, holidays. And over time they develop the ease of friendship. I think that this is an important topic but I do feel that My Vertical Neighborhood is a simplistic look at the act of neighboring. It was a slow read for me.
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My mom read this book after leaving an abusive marriage. It was the perfect thing. She enjoyed every character and their ability to connect with others in positive ways. If you’re feeling down, this is a terrific antidote.
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My Vertical Neighborhood
How Strangers Became a Community
by Lynda MacGibbon
InterVarsity Press
Pub Date 30 Mar 2021 

I am reviewing a copy of My Vertical Neighborhood through InterVarsity Press and Netgalley:

What if we had our neighbors as our friends?  When Lydia MacGibbon moved from a small city in eastern Canada to a high-rise apartment in Toronto, she decided to follow Jesus' famous commandment to "love your neighbor" a bit more literally.  She would have looked for friends at her new job or her new church in the past but now she decided to look for friends among the strangers who shared her apartment building her actual neighbors in her new "vertical neighborhood."   

My Vertical Neighborhood is a charming and relatable memoir in which MacGibbon tells the story of the community that took shape as neighbors said yes to weekly dinners and a writing group, Christmas morning brunch and even a Bible study.  This is the story of a simple everyday risk of reaching out with love to those around us, and of the beauty and messiness of real human relationships.  It’s story of the risks and rewards of taking Jesus at his word.

I give My Vertical Neighborhood five out of five stars!

Happy Reading!
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This was a delightfully pleasant sojourn into the ordinariness and extraordinariness of daily living in an apartment complex. MacGibbon had been asking God for years to help her understand why loving our neighbours is so important. He answered by moving her to a big city, Toronto, into a high-rise apartment complex where she got to meet many neighbours, many of whom have become lifelong friends even though they may have moved away.

MacGibbon is a journalist and this is such an easy read as chapter by chapter we meet new people who come into her life. What I particularly appreciated was MacGibbon's willingness to befriend people who were quite unlike her and who's lifestyle may have been very different but still they managed to find common ground to explore friendship with each other.

MacGibbon's neighbours were ordinary, like her. Like most of us are. Even though God has made each one of us uniquely special which in some way makes us all extraordinary. And having a little of Him inside us adds to that sense of wonder, doesn't it.

This is no guidebook on how to make friends or to love neighbours. There's no six steps to being a good neighbour but there are a few powerful lessons that we can take away from this memoir. Most significantly is one that she shares near the end:

"Love is a choice we - the people who make up neighbourhoods - make."

Love doesn't just happen. It's not just a feeling, it's an intentional act. And what we see in this lovely memoir are many examples of such acts: Monday night dinners, establishment of a writing group, saying yes to invitations even when inconvenient and so on.

Yes, MacGibbon reminds us that "often, neighbourly love is situational and contextual." People move on but that does't mean we can't be present and allow others to be present to us even though they may likely leave in the future. 

There is a lot to like about this book and I appreciated MacGibbon's (and her neighbours) honesty and vulnerability in sharing the everyday with us.

I received an early ebook copy from IVP via NetGalley with no expectation of a favourable review.
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Reading this book felt moving into the apartment building with Lynda and sitting in a corner while watching friendships unfold. This book is a memoir of Lynda's experience moving into a high rise apartment and trying to intentionally love her neighbors. What I loved about this book is that it showed the extraordinary beauty in ordinary relationships with real people. This book is not about the secret to having the greatest community ever. It is just stories of learning to love real people where they were. The greatest strength of the book was the cast of characters. The book almost reads like a novel because of how alive the people come. Even in the short book I was invested in these people's lives and stories.

My one criticism is I wish that the book talked more in depth about she learned from obeying Jesus command. The book is explicitly Christian, but it lurks more in the background. It felt like you could remove everything mentioning Jesus and the book might not have changed significantly.

If you want a beautiful story about how to love your neighbors then I would absolutely recommend this book. Even as someone who lives in a small town I was inspired by this book. If you are hoping for a book that gives you clear instructions, or a guide for loving your neighbors then this might not be for you.
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My Vertical Neighborhood is MacGibbon's journey as she takes the 'love thy neighbor' command literally. The author depicts her move into a high rise condo development in Toronto and how she challenged herself to create a community in a very isolated and compartmented setting. I loved the book Under the Overpass, where the authors chose to experience homelessness and got a lot out of it, so that's why this caught my eye. Stories where individuals try to literally live out their faith move and inspire me. I loved the ups and downs and the very poignant and realistic depiction of the relationships.
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