I’m happy to welcome to the interview hot seat a character from Liz Alterman’s mystery The Perfect Neighborhood, Rachel Barnes. Before we find out more about who Rachel is, let’s first take a look at Liz’s bio. Here we go!
Liz Alterman lives in New Jersey with her husband and three sons. She spends most days repeatedly microwaving the same cup of coffee and looking up synonyms.
Rachel Barnes, mom in her early 40s whose child disappears on his walk home from kindergarten.
Betty: How would you describe your childhood?
Rachel: My childhood was largely unhappy. My parents fought constantly—primarily about money. Fortunately, my older sister, Darcy, was my rock. My earliest memory is of us sitting beneath the dining room table with her hands covering my ears, shielding me from our parents’ arguing.
Betty: What do you think is your greatest achievement? Why?
Rachel: My greatest achievement is my son, Billy. He is a kind-hearted, curious child who loves baseball and nature.
Betty: If you could change one thing from your past, what would it be and why?
Rachel: If I could change one thing, I would never have allowed Billy to walk to and from kindergarten without an adult. My husband, Ted, convinced me that because the school was just a few blocks away and because Billy walked with his friend Oliver, he’d be safe. When I disagreed, Ted argued that “fresh air and a little independence” is good for a child. I still didn’t like the idea. We got Billy a cell phone so we could track his location. But on the morning of the day Billy went missing, I’d taken that phone because he’d been dawdling, playing a game at breakfast when he was supposed to be brushing his teeth. If I hadn’t let Ted get his way, my son would never have gone missing.
Betty: What’s your greatest fear? Who else knows about it?
Rachel: My greatest fear is that we’ll never find Billy, that I’ll never see his sweet smile or hear his easy laughter again. Everyone in Oak Hill, our usually-quiet, safe town, knows that I’m living a parent’s worst nightmare. Our neighbors have helped search for my son but no clues have been found yet.
Betty: How much of your true self do you share with others?
Rachel: I tend to be very guarded and private. As a real estate agent, I try to project the image of the perfect lifestyle. I don’t want anyone to know the truth—my marriage has been in trouble since the beginning. But since Billy disappeared, I’ve been unraveling and I’m unable to keep up the facade. Only my sister, Darcy, really knows that I’m spiraling, and there are even some secrets I haven’t shared with her.
Betty: Are you close to your family? Do you wish your relationship with them was different in any way? If so, how?
Rachel: I wish my relationship with my husband, Ted, was different. We got off to an unusual start. He hired me to sell his home after his wife, Jane, died. I could tell he was lonely. We spent more and more time together. When the home didn’t sell immediately, I convinced him to stay and make some changes. Before I knew it, I was pregnant. His son, Evan, from his first marriage, didn’t welcome me with open arms. My relationship with Evan has also been strained. I wish that were different, too, especially as I wonder if he had anything to do with Billy’s disappearance.
Betty: If you could change yourself in some way, what change would you make? Why?
Rachel: If I could change something about myself, I’d have been a better, more attentive mother to Billy. I’d have put down my phone and focused on him instead of prioritizing my work. After we had an incident with our au pair, I should’ve put a lot more thought into who I let watch Billy. Cassidy, the teen I hired to babysit in the afternoons, is a nice girl but very distracted recently. She was late to arrive on the day Billy disappeared and I wonder how much that played a role in his disappearance. I’m haunted by the ways I’ve failed my child.
When actress and model Allison Langley leaves her former rockstar husband, Christopher, it’s all her Oak Hill neighbors can talk about. The gossip comes to an abrupt halt when five-year-old Billy Barnes goes missing on his walk home from kindergarten.
Billy’s mother, Rachel, blames herself for being at work and letting her only child walk alone. Cassidy, Billy’s teenage babysitter, was also late to arrive on the afternoon he disappeared and blames herself for his disappearance.
As the clock ticks down, police are unable to find any trace of Billy, forcing Rachel to ponder the enemies she’s made in their well-off suburb. Could it be one of her neighbors who stole her son? Would they abduct Billy to hurt her? How easy would it be to take a child while the parents or nannies are distracted?
When another child goes missing, the town is put under a microscope as the police try to get to the bottom of the disappearances. Will they be able to find the two children, or will it be too late? What secrets lie at the heart of this tragedy, and how far will one go to keep those dangerous secrets buried?
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Oh dear, Rachel! I do hope they find the kids. Thanks for taking a few minutes to stop by and tell us about your story.
Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories
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