George Woodbury is a beloved science teacher who once saved the local school from an armed shooter. Fast forward a decade and the same science teacher is in prison after being accused of sexual misconduct with four students. The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall is the story of the family as they await his trial. There’s Joan: nurse and wife, who has to struggle with the accusations placed on her husband and the roller coaster of emotions that comes with having a husband in jail. Andrew: son and successful attorney who fled his hometown first chance he could and is now back assisting with the case, reliving the memories of an unhappy teenage existence. Sadie: daughter and over-achieving student, now socially ostracized from everything she once held dear.
After George’s arrest the family is fractured. Each person must juggle what they thought they knew about George with reality. As the news spreads through the community they must also handle a ferocious lash back: relationships are strained and friendships are tested.
Overall I though Whittall did a splendid job of confronting rape-culture in this timely work. The novel is informative and makes you think, my preconceived notions were challenged as I read through the book. The Best Kind of People puts you in the community’s shoes: what such an allegation looks like not only for the perpetrator and victim, but also families and the town as a whole. With a husband who works in the prison system, the impact of an allegation on the accused’s family is not a point of view I as a person see very often. It was a unique perspective and reminded me just how broad the reverberations go after the initial shock wave of such an allegation.
It was clear that Whittall was very thorough in her research, and thoughtful in the writing of the book. For those who like novels with pretty packaging and neat bows this book is far from that. The characters in the book are complex and real: with raw edges and painful experiences. They are human.
While the premise is great, I would advise against this book if you like neat transitions and all the strings tied at the end. There is a lot of shifts in perspective throughout the story, and it can be confusing to switch between the multiple characters’ POVs. Some of the side plots are also dropped without resolution so the reader must fill in with their own imagination. As a reader I thought the ending was a bit rushed after a prolonged story, like Whittall was struggling to find a way to conclude her story, but then again isn’t it like life where there really is no conclusion?
Overall I gave the book 3.5 out of 5 stars. I think Whittall leaves the reader lots to think about, but the writing itself could have been improved. I will be reflecting on this one for a while.
*Thank you to Net Galley and the author for providing me with a free copy in exchange for a honest review. All opinions stated here are my own