When Lynda MacGibbon moved into a Toronto high-rise apartment building, she felt God’s leading toward loving her neighbors in an intentional, life-on-life way. In her book, My Vertical Neighborhood: How Strangers Became a Community, MacGibbon shares the ups and downs of taking Jesus’ command literally and focusing on her actual neighbors as she sought to build community in a new place.
The book is not designed as a how-to manual but as written as a memoir, weaving Lynda’s own story with the stories of those she meets and lives life with over the years. She is a gifted story-teller, and makes the people she introduces come alive in all their complexity, messiness, and beauty. She pulls no punches and honestly shows the awkwardness and conflict inherent in deepening relationships, but she also portrays the incredible potential of relational ministry around the table, opening our homes to one another, and simply being ourselves and welcoming others to come as they are.
Though the book was meant to be a memoir, I think it would have benefitted from a bit more structure and reflection. While the stories were beautiful, they read like an initial journal of events which could some day be raw material to write a book. I wish MacGibbon would have perhaps shared less details of the stories of her neighbors’ lives (though she got permission from each of them, sometimes the level of detail felt almost too intimate to me as a reader) and more about what she had learned and what her encouragement is to others who want to love their neighbors intentionally to, since I’m sure this was her intention in writing the book. Nevertheless, My Vertical Neighborhood is a realistic accounting of one woman’s experience seeking to love her literal neighbors in an expansively everyday way.