A finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and a national bestseller, Zoe Whittall’s The Best Kind of People is a stunning tour de force about the unravelling of an all-American family.
George Woodbury, an affable teacher and beloved husband and father, is arrested for sexual impropriety at a prestigious prep school. His wife, Joan, vaults between denial and rage as the community she loved turns on her. Their daughter, Sadie, a popular over-achieving high school senior, becomes a social pariah. Their son, Andrew, assists in his father’s defense, while wrestling with his own unhappy memories of his teen years. A local author tries to exploit their story, while an unlikely men’s rights activist attempts to get Sadie onside their cause. With George locked up, how do the members of his family pick up the pieces and keep living their lives? How do they defend someone they love while wrestling with the possibility of his guilt?
With exquisite emotional precision, award-winning author Zoe Whittall explores issues of loyalty, truth, and the meaning of happiness through the lens of an all-American family on the brink of collapse.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
When several students accuse venerated prep school teacher George Woodbury of sexual misconduct, his life explodes. Caught in the shrapnel is his family: a devoted wife blindsided by the allegations, a teenage daughter flirting with rebellion, and a gay son loath to return home. Zoe Whittall cannily explores all of her characters’ perspectives in this tremendously timely novel. With shades of Jonathan Franzen and Judith Guest, The Best Kind of People reveals that even the happiest families have dirt that’s been swept under rugs.
Challenging the traditional crime story narrative, Whittal focuses on the aftershocks of a crime not from the victim's perspective, but that of the family of the accused. Beloved by the community of Avalon Hills and revered as a teacher and hero, George Woodbury is arrested for sexual misconduct and attempted rape involving his students. His wife, Joan, and their daughter, Sadie, are paralyzed by shock, denial, and confusion. Eldest son Andrew, a lawyer in New York City, comes to his father's defense, staunchly protesting the accusations against him. As months pass readers witness the psychological destruction of the family. Shunned by the community, tormented by threats and taunts, and trapped in a pattern of supporting their patriarch despite uncertainties regarding his innocence, each member of the family is ill-equipped to move forward. Sadie succumbs to apathy and anxiety, using drugs as an escape. Andrew is consumed by memories of his youth as a gay teen. Joan is unable to reconcile her conflicting feelings of loyalty and rage towards her husband. The prose is conversational; the reactions predictable; the ending hurried. Some plotlines don't work, but Whittal brings realism and humanity to the story.
Engrossing and Topical
Whittall does an excellent job of developing her characters and letting them unravel over the course of the novel.
'The Best Kind of People' forces you to check your perspective as the story develops. Each of the characters is going through an emotionally charged period in their lives, and there are similarities between their situations which force you to examine why you feel a certain way about one character, and not the other.
I wish the book would have been longer by 2-3 chapters. It ends suddenly, and as much as I appreciate things being left open to interpretation, a final push in development would have been nice.
Intriguing story. Complex characters during crisis - written beautifully. Sorry to find myself at the end of this book - I would love to know more about each character!