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Review: The Best Kind of People

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Can you all just go read The Best Kind of People? I need (not want, NEED) more people to read this so that I can talk about it. Like, you don’t even need to read this review, just go read the book. K? Alright.


George Woodbury, a repeat teacher of the year and a beloved father and husband, is arrested for sexual impropriety at a respected prep school. This event has an immediate and profound effect on his loved ones. His wife Joan cycles through anger and denial, questioning the validity of their relationship. His daughter Sadie, an over-achieving senior at the school, suddenly becomes a social outcast. And his son Andrew is forced to face memories from his own high school days, while assisting in the defense.

While George awaits trial, his family faces a community split between harsh judgement and uncomfortable support. They struggle to keep their lives afloat as they attempt to defend him while facing the possibility of his guilt.

Let’s get into it

As I began reading this book, I knew there was a distinct possibility that it could break me. I know too many survivors of sexual assault and I find it difficult to read or hear about the subject without thinking about those who are affected by it. Still, I recognize the importance of doing so. Of course, it becomes easier to read about difficult subjects when the writer is as talented and thoughtful as Zoe Whittall.

The Best Kind of People tells its story through the perspectives of those deeply affected by allegations against George. Joan, Sadie, and Andrew are complex characters that face incredible hardships, both at the hands of others and through their own destructive behaviours. They each display courage in their own ways. In fact, I think Joan and Sadie are among the strongest female characters I have ever read. Not because they don’t show emotions or make mistakes, but because they do. They are incredibly complex and well written.

Furthermore, Whittall doesn’t put her characters in a vacuum, where only their thoughts matter. Instead, they are part of a community – one split by how they feel about George Woodbury. She includes many different perspectives on the allegations against George. These include men’s rights activists who think the girls are lying to ruin George’s life, others who believe George is a predator and that his family must have known about his crimes, and finally those who don’t know what to think, those who are trapped somewhere in between.

By including all of these perspectives, Whittall explores questions of loyalty, truth, and guilt. But above all, she does not stray from reality. There are no easy answers in this book. No tidy bow with which to tie it all up. The result is a novel that is beautifully written, but uncomfortable in a way that makes us confront our beliefs and address the reality we live in.

Ultimately, The Best Kind of People is among the best kind of books. It makes you think, forces you to put yourself in the position of its characters, and experience their discomfort in a way that makes you open your heart. The novel shows suffering and strength, while exploring what it means to move on. It might not be an easy read, but it is an important one.

Final verdict: Again, just go read this book. The Best Kind of People is incredibly timely and wonderfully written. It’s an amazing exploration of empathy.

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