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September 17, 2017

Don't Miss This Book: The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall

Both MK French and I (Donna) read The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall, which hits shelves on Tuesday. We thought you might like to get both of our perspectives so here is a double review.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

Review by MK French

The Best Kind of People
September 2017; Ballantine Books
9780399182211; ebook, audio, print (448 pages)
women's fiction
The Woodbury had a charmed life in Avalon Hills. George was a respected teacher at the prep school his daughter Sadie attended, and was celebrated as a hero when a gunman had tried to enter the school. Joan was a hard working ER nurse. Their son Andrew was a lawyer in New York City. It all came to a crashing halt when George was arrested for sexual misconduct and then held in jail without bail until the trial. The entire town became polarized, and his own family wasn't sure of his innocence.

The story is very emotionally gripping, dealing more with the fallout for the rest of the family. We see very little of George, so he's more a cipher in the story. I suppose we're meant to come to our own conclusions about his guilt or innocence, as the town decries the accusers, call the family horrible names, or emotionally supports the rest of the Woodburys.

We don't really hear much about the preparations for the trial, even peripherally, and much of Andrew's story thread feels off somehow. He seems to teeter between extremes, which is certainly a valid response to stress, but I couldn't connect with him at all.

More attention seems to be paid to Sadie and Joan, and their struggle to deal with the accusations, the treatment from reporters and others in the community, as well as each others' emotions. How they cope and what they feel is so finely drawn, the epilogue fizzles in comparison.

Overall, this is a gripping, engaging read, and I raced through it as fast as I could.

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

Review by Donna Huber

I did not want to put this book down. The Best Kind of People deals with the difficult, complex issue of sexual assault. The actual case against George Woodbury is mostly in the background. Instead, the book focuses on the family.

How would you react if the person you love, raised children with, and are looking forward to spending retirement with was suddenly arrested for sexual misconduct? That is what wife Joan is trying to figure out. What if the man who saved you and the rest of school from a crazed gunman was suddenly accused by your classmates as a sexual predator? That is what daughter Sadie is dealing with.

George Woodbury is a popular and prominent member of the Avalon Hills community. He teaches at the local private school where girls from a class skip trip have accused him of being inappropriate. The town is naturally divided between supporting Teacher of the Year and the girls. To bring this closer to home, Joan's sister Clara is on the side of the girls while son Andrew, at least initially, is on George's side.

I felt divided throughout the novel on whether George did it or if the girls are lying. What I was sure of is that I felt bad for Joan and Sadie as they had to deal with the fallout of the accusations. Whittall did a great job of creating sympathetic characters.

The story is subtly multi-layered. The subplots with Sadie almost feel like foils to what might have happened on the ski trip. First, there is the attraction she develops to an older man after misinterpreting his interest in her. And then there is the party with the "townies". She gets so drunk that she can't remember what happened. Yet, while there is evidence of her having sex she doesn't cry rape.

Andrew, while a member of the immediate family, I felt was more of a peripheral character. His subplots seem to bit disconnected from the main plot. I wondered if there was something I was missing, or if the author was just trying to give more life to the character. When his father is first arrested Andrew is staunchly in his corner even though there is a suggestion of a strained relationship between them. Is their strained relationship because Andrew is gay? Then there is the revelation that Andrew had a relationship with his gym teacher while a student at the private school. And finally his rocky relationship with current boyfriend Jared. It felt like Andrew felt the most removed of the fallout from George's arrest, though it may have brought to light his issues. He and Clara are neck and neck on the character I lest cared for.

As it is mentioned several times in the book, this issue isn't black and white. I thought Whittall did a great job exploring the complexities of the issue and not shying away from the gray areas.

Overall this is a great, thought-provoking book. If you are in a book club, definitely put it on your schedule. I hate calling books timely, but this is definitely a topic that needs to be talked about today.

Buy The Best Kind of People  at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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