Set in Wedersen, a working-class town in post-World War II Germany, Next Door Lived a Girl explores the dark transformation of young boys into young men. The town’s veneer of peaceful industry barely conceals the ugly secrets that lie beneath. Moritz and his friends make a dangerous discovery that pulls them into a war with a rival gang, into the ruthless and cunning world of blackmail and consequence, and, ultimately, into a cascading series of events that will change the nature of their friendship, and their lives, forever.
“This is Stefan Kiesbye’s brilliant debut, a book so quiet and yet so maddeningly powerful, you just have to wonder about him a little bit. The setting is tribal, alien, hostile and middle-class. The backdrop is the lingering and haunting ravages of war, a place where society does not hold together, does not transmit ideals and values, does not sustain notions of right and wrong. Inescapable is the rendering of a human condition: ordered, spontaneous and shockingly violent.
“In clear and lucid prose, Next Door Lived A Girl reads as the truest of true-crime novels. Its protagonist is the remembering everyboy who suffers profoundly and in turn commits the gravest of acts. His is a telling voice, agile, insightful and darkly humorous. He does not ask for understanding because he knows you could not possibly understand what happens and he does not ask for forgiveness because he knows you could never forgive such terrible actions.
“But you do understand these events. You understand them the same way you understand falling water or tumbling stones. They happen and you can do no other than believe them. And at the extreme reach of your heart’s mind you do forgive, because, well, what else can you do? This he earns from you and what he earns, he earns the hard way.
“You will read from beginning to end and you will feel this world and its inhabitants neither responding nor reacting in ways you quite expect, but nevertheless, rising up beneath you in a most compelling and unsettling way and when you are through you will scratch your head and tell someone they have to read it too.”