Title/Author: We Are All Good People Here by Susan Rebecca White
Publisher: Atria Books
In a nutshell (Publisher):
From the author of A Place at the Table and A Soft Place to Land, an “intense, complex, and wholly immersive” (Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author) multigenerational novel that explores the complex relationship between two very different women and the secrets they bequeath to their daughters.
Eve Whalen, privileged child of an old-money Atlanta family, meets Daniella Gold in the fall of 1962, on their first day at Belmont College. Paired as roommates, the two become fast friends. Daniella, raised in Georgetown by a Jewish father and a Methodist mother, has always felt caught between two worlds. But at Belmont, her bond with Eve allows her to finally experience a sense of belonging. That is, until the girls’ expanding awareness of the South’s systematic injustice forces them to question everything they thought they knew about the world and their places in it.
Eve veers toward radicalism—a choice pragmatic Daniella cannot fathom. After a tragedy, Eve returns to Daniella for help in beginning anew, hoping to shed her past. But the past isn’t so easily buried, as Daniella and Eve discover when their daughters are endangered by secrets meant to stay hidden.
Spanning more than thirty years of American history, from the twilight of Kennedy’s Camelot to the beginning of Bill Clinton’s presidency, We Are All Good People Here is “a captivating…meaningful, resonant story” (Emily Giffin, author of All We Ever Wanted) about two flawed but well-meaning women clinging to a lifelong friendship that is tested by the rushing waters of history and their own good intentions.
Verdict: An insightful, empathetic and well-researched novel on friendship and humanity that grew on me!
1962. Daniella Gold started college and met her roommate Eve Whalen. Eve warmed up to her as soon as they met, but soon they’d find out how different they were. Eve, a wealthy girl from Atlanta who wore her heart on her sleeve which of course didn’t work to her favor most of the time. While Daniella on the other hand, was more careful and preferred to be on the safe side of things, working behind-the-scene and not being the center of attention.
Despite their differences, their friendship stood the test of time, until one day, when fate veered them to different paths in lives. Daniella, whose application to be a volunteer was accepted, went to Mississippi assisting in the Civil Rights Movement in Ohio; Eve whose application was rejected, joined Smash, an underground activist group, which, as Eve simply put it, “We’re mostly just teaching at the school and organizing against the war in Vietnam.”
After being apart, their paths crossed again when Eve needed Daniella’s help. Once again, their friendship, although a little strained, was revived. Eventually, they started their own families, brought up their little ones the best way they knew, and continued trying to good in the community. Daniella, a mother, also a lawyer defending indigent on death row, and Eve, dedicated herself to being a mother and wife, leaving those wild, reckless days behind. She would’ve made her grandmommy very proud.
Sarah, Daniella’s daughter, was a mini-version of her, controlled and level-minded while still figuring out the black-white-gray areas of the world, who also sometimes wished Eve was her mom. Anna, on the other hand, was born with a silver spoon, just like her mother, but more self-conscious, uncertain of herself, and still in under her mother’s shadow. But all that changed when she discovered a secret her mother had kept from her all these years.
I must admit this novel wasn’t love at first read, but it grew on me especially towards the second half, where I felt the characters were slowly opening up, and the story became more fluid. I loved watching how Eve and Daniella changed over the years; how the changes in themselves affected their relationship and perception of each other. I believe their friendship would’ve ended if not for their daughters, who were, not surprisingly, good friends too.
Spanning over 30 years, this novel covered numerous issues, from race to politics and feminism, homosexuality and sexual harassment, even anti-semitism, which in my opinion, was thoroughly researched and well done.
This novel made me ponder, is there a right or wrong way of doing good? Does it matter how we do it, as long as we’re trying to do good? Eve was always trying to fight what she believed in, even when she became a mother, she did what she thought was best for her daughter, but Daniella, who was always too quick to judge her best friend, thought that there were ‘better’ ways of doing it.
As Bob, Eve’s husband, put it,“We’re all good people here, all trying to muddle through this the best we can.”
TW: Animal abuse, which I totally skipped! Thank you to all those who warned other readers about it.
Have you read this book? What did you think? If you haven’t, do you intend to? Please share with me your thoughts!