Monday, March 9, 2020

We Are All Good People Here

Title:  We Are All Good People Here
Author:  Susan Rebecca White
Publication Information:  Atria Books. 2019. 304 pages.
ISBN:  1451608918 / 978-1451608915

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Daniella's father steered the Dodge Pioneer up the serpentine drive of Belmont College, home to more than five hundred girls renowned for their Beauty and Brains, or at least that was what the boosterish tour guide who had shown Daniella around the previous spring had claimed."

Favorite Quote:  "What a seductive belief - that one can start fresh simply by jettisoning one's history, that one can leave all that is  painful or unsavory behind."

The "here" of We are All Good People Here begins in 1962 in Roanoke, Virginia at an all girls' school. Two young women - Eva Whalen and Daniella Gold - from different places and different backgrounds become roommates at Belmont College. They form a friendship that will last a lifetime even though life will take them and their friendship in many different directions.

Their friendship begins with the issue of segregation and racial equality and equity and an attempt to help. Unfortunately, that attempt goes very, very wrong. It sets them on the paths of their lives. From there, the book traces their lives through the next thirty years of American history. Through their eyes and their choices, the book traces the major movements of that history - segregation, equal rights, women's rights, free love, and so many more. At times, the two women find themselves standing together, and at times, their different philosophies drive them apart and down different paths.

It is as if there is a checklist of the major historical notes, and the book attempts to hit them all. In that, it is as if the book becomes a survey of the history with box after box checked off. The story of the women becomes the vehicle for the history rather than the history becoming a background for the story. The history is there, but the story doesn't quite come together. I find myself skimming through the historical context to see how the story develops.

Reader beware:  One chapter I wish I had skipped involves graphic sexual conduct and the torture and mutilation of a cat. Why is it there? I have no idea, and I wish it was not.

One random interesting note:  I love when books I read connect to each other. Eve Whalen is from Atlanta. As an introduction to Daniella, Eve describes her connection to "Atlantans returning from a European art tour. Upon takeoff in Paris, the plane had caught fire." This very specific piece of history is the subject of Visible Empire.

The ending of the book leaves me wondering for it focuses on only one of the two women and only on her perspective while most of the book has actually been focused on the actions of the other. In addition, a book of a friendship that lasts thirty years appears to end in a judgement. "It's just that she frustrates me endlessly. Her life has offered her so many opportunities, so many second chances - second chances no person of color would ever get, by the way. Yet she continues to bury herself again and again in the dogma of whoever has captured her attention at the moment."

I am left wondering why.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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