Wednesday, August 14, 2019

We Are All Good People Here

We Are All Good People Here by Susan Rebecca White
Atria Books: 8/6/19
eBook review copy; 304 pages
ISBN-13: 9781451608915

We Are All Good People Here by Susan Rebecca White is a highly recommended multi-generational drama that follows two college roommates over three decades.

The narrative begins in the radical 60's. Daniella Gold, from Georgetown, was raised by a Jewish father and a Methodist mother as a middle-class, liberal Unitarian. When she attends Belmont College in 1962, her roommate is Eve Whalen. Eve grew up as a privileged daughter of an old-money Atlanta family. Despite their different backgrounds, the two young women became best friends. For the first time, Eve actually notices prejudice and tries to improve conditions for their college house maid, but instead the results are harmful and ruinous. Daniella experienced prejudice before and continues to when she was told none of the sororities on campus would ask her to pledge due to her Jewish father. Eve, who had never experienced any prejudice, supports her and refuses to pledge in support of Daniella. They both transfer to Barnard College in NYC for their sophomore year.

At this time the two become more deeply involved in social issues and expand their awareness of the injustice and prejudice in the South. They also grow apart as Eve becomes more radical while Daniella works with others to bring about change and pursues her education. Daniella earns a law degree and marries. Eve takes up with a violent, radical anti-establishment, underground group and the two lose touch. When Eve is involved in a destructive tragedy, she turns to Daniella to overcome her radical past. The novel then jumps to the daughters of the two friends.

White excels at capturing the history, events, time, and place of the decades involved and covers the gamut of social injustices, racism, diversity, family, the South, history, religion, and the complexities of life. Starting with the sixties and moving through the decades to the nineties, the questions of social consciousness and morality continue to the end. If it sounds like it is a whole lot to cover, it is and although she does a very good job, it is almost too much to cover with any degree of serious insight. This means you have to go with the flow and follow the plot and the very basic social ramifications of the decades as presented to appreciate the novel. In reality, the entire time span is too complex to be captured in so few pages.

The quality of the writing is outstanding. The narrative is best viewed as women's fiction and a character study of the lives of these two women and their daughters. At the beginning of the novel when Daniella and Eve are well developed characters, but we lose this later in the novel when the focus shifts to their daughters. In some ways this was a regrettable choice as it makes only the early years of a woman's life as an interesting time. Sure we get glimpses of their lives, but lose the close contact with the characters.

In a chapter when Eve is radicalized, there is an incident with a cat that... (shaking head) is very hard to stomach and may be difficult for animal lovers to overcome. I hate having this scene in my head and I even skimmed through it after I realized where it was going.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Atria Books.

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