Cover Image: We Are All Good People Here

We Are All Good People Here

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In the early 1960’s two young women become roommates and best friends in their freshman year at the southern women’s college of Belmont, and this friendship is the premise of this lovely, character-driven novel by Susan Rebecca White. Both Eve and Daniella are born into privilege, but Eve comes from an old southern family with staunch traditions and requirements (join a certain sorority, be proper, marry, have children, continue the tradition etc). When they realize their school house’s maid has to stay on campus during the weekdays overnight Eve tries to make a difference, and is faced with her first realization of how unjust the system really is – this is the girls’ first (albeit misguided) step into civil rights activism. As the girls grow older they drift apart, and come back together again over the years. Eve falls into radical anti-war activism, while Daniella pursues a law career while still focusing on civil rights and politics. One huge event brings the women back together again, and they then settle into comfortable lives, never realizing the past may be lying in wait.

My all-time favorite author is Marge Piercy, and We Are All Good People reminds me a lot of her work (in a good way!). This novel is a story of coming of age in the 60’s but also the early 90’s, of activism, of radical activism, of privilege, of feminism, of friendship, of family, and also of recent history. The prose is gorgeous, each voice distinct and powerful, and it flows perfectly: I couldn’t put it down and kept thinking about the plot and the characters. Eve and Daniella are both flawed and full of good sides, rounded characters, humans. At times you want to hug them, be their best friends, or shout at them, sometimes all of that at once. But most of all you want them to all be OK.

I love these types of stories that explore real women growing up and fighting against what is expected of them. Do they always win? No, but without the fight we wouldn’t be where we are today, and they are a reminder that we still have a lot to do. At the beginning of the novel there is an editor’s note stating that it took the author 5 years to write this novel (and the author also states this in her acknowledgements). I think these 5 years were well spent, as this novel is just wonderful, researched, whole, and a fantastic read. I have personally not read any of the other novels written by Susan Rebecca White, but shall be adding them to my TBR now!

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the advance copy of this wonderful novel!
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In We Are All Good People Here, Eve, a privileged girl from a wealthy Atlanta family, and Daniella, a half-Jewish girl from DC who was raised Unitarian, meet in 1962 when they are assigned as roommates at Belmont College, an all-girls school. Immediately, they become inseparable, and under Daniella’s influence, Eve becomes aware of the injustices inherent in southern society. As the sixties progress, Daniella takes a more traditional path while Eve aligns with a radical group against racial oppression and the Vietnam War.

For years, the two have no contact, Daniella struggling as a young wife and the only female lawyer of an elite Atlanta law firm and Eve on the fringes of society trying to foment revolution, but when Eve finally decides to resurface after a tragedy blamed on her association, she contacts Daniella for help. Again, the women become best friends, but will it last this time? 

They both have daughters, Anna and Sarah, in the early seventies who grow up together and are shielded from Eve’s tumultuous past, but a secret long buried insidiously rises, not only to tear the four women apart, but that could threaten the lives of the teenagers.

The book’s premise is certainly appealing, and it does present a vivid picture of the social milieu of the times. Although it provided a rich background for the story, it often overpowered the narrative, feeling like the primary goal of the book was to recount the major milestones of the Civil Rights Movement rather than advance Daniella and Eve’s storyline. 

Part II of the book shifts the perspective to the teenage girls, Daniella’s daughter, Sarah, the only character voiced in first person, and Eve’s daughter, Anna. While this section is more story driven, the characters are not as fully developed, especially Anna, so it difficult to become invested in them. This section did explore how a mother’s youthful choices echoed into the present to affect her child and commented on the travails of single working mothers of the period. It also showed how the children of the sixties became part of Reagan’s moral majority.

As mentioned, I wish that the historical background had been more subtly integrated into the novel. Additionally, I found myself desiring that the secondary and tertiary characters be more developed. I was also disappointed that when Daniella found a boyfriend, she devoted all her attention to him, ignoring her friends, and that her daughter repeated the same folly a decade later. There was also one of the most horrific scenes of animal cruelty I’ve seen on the page and that truly was unnecessary.

Though the history often did overwhelm the story, I did enjoy reading about the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement and the impact on a genteel, old-money family when a child became radicalized. It also uncovered some of the fallout when hidden truths come to light. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Have you read the book Rush by Lisa Patton? I would consider this book a kind of Rush 2 as the story here expands well beyond college and well beyond advocating for the rights of black house mothers. It was as though Ms. White read Rush and thought "oh we can take this farther." Thankfully, whether that was her intent or not, she did a great job! And, no you don't need to have read one to understand the other, it was just a connection I made when I first started reading. I really enjoyed Ms. White's character development and where she decided to focus her plots on each of the I characters. They seemed to ebb and flow throughout the book and it made for nice reading. This approach provided a good balance but at the same time, I felt somewhat removed from the characters after they left college. I also felt a bit off kilter when a third point of view was brought in to play later in the book. It was a sharp change in the trajectory of the story. I understand why it was done but if served to break the flow of the book a bit too much. However, none of these issues were enough to detract from my enjoyment of the story itself and the growth of the women portrayed.
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Love the cover, love the story, love the writing. Nice flow and kept me intrigued. Will be adding this to my collection.
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We Are All Good People Here is the story, spanning over 30 years, of Daniella and Eve who are paired as roommates in their first year at Belmont College to the 1990s when their own daughters go off to college. 

I appreciate the amount of time and research that went into the writing of this novel beginning in the 1960s with the civil rights movement; however, I did not feel a connection to any of the characters. 

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the advanced copy; all opinions are my own.
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I must admit that I had a hard time putting this one down. There was something about the characters and their story that really worked for me. Eve and Daniella meet as freshmen in a small girls college in the south in the early 1960s. Eve comes from a very wealthy southern family, and Daniella is half Jewish and comes from an academic family. The story chronicles several decades of their frought friendship. The novel doesn't really play out in the way one might expect given their backgrounds. Rather than playing on stereotypes, the author gives them both distinct personalities that also influence their paths. Eve has an extremist idealistic tendency, and she throws herself into everything with passion -- often to her own detriment and to the detriment of others. Daniella is more careful and measured. This brings them into conflict, but there is nevertheless a deep bond between them. In later years, the story shifts a bit and focuses on their daughters -- a part I liked too, but not quite as much. The end was not quite tidy, which was another plus as far as I'm concerned. I would call this a really good character study.

One warning: don't read this book if you have any issues with reading about animal cruelty. There's one scene in the middle that's hard to stomach.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
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This story follows Daniella and Eve from the 1960s where they meet in college to the 1990s where their daughters are friends and narrators in the story. Daniella and Eve go on different paths after college, and are reunited after the birth of their daughters. This book discusses a lot of the politics of the 1960s and how some things in the world hadn't even changed in the 1990s. I'm not a big history buff, but I enjoyed reading about these eras and how politics shaped Daniella and Eve, and their daughters as well.
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This feels like the Summer of 1960’s novels! We are All Good People Here is a story of two best friends and their diverging involvement in the civil rights movement as two white women. Daniella grew up outside of DC and is the daughter of a Jewish father and Eve grew up in a wealthy family in Atlanta. The two meet as freshmen in college at an all-women’s college in Virginia. While they embark on the typical southern college life of joining a sorority, Daniella experiences anti-Semitism and the two women become increasingly interested in the lives of the black women that spend their lives living in the basements of their college dorms as maids to the girls. Their interest grows into something more as they leave their Virginia college after freshman year to head to New York City. In NYC, the two women take diverging paths, one in a more mainstream anti-war and civil rights group and one more radical. This a story about their lives where they diverge on life’s journey and where they come back together. The first half of the story follows the two women and the second have of the story is from the perspective of their daughters. I will say I preferred the first half of the story since I didn’t enjoy the high school drama aspect as much but I thought it was a great exploration of the path life can take us on with one seemingly small decision and the consequences. There is also a bit of a twist at the end!
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This novel taking place from 1962-1990's follows Daniella and Eve as they deal with the changing times and as they evolve from zealous young women to mature women. You also get to meet their daughters and see the impact of their mother's lives on their lives.
I really enjoyed the in-depth and historical insight into the civil rights movement and the involvement of young white people as well as the insights into groups like the Weathermen. The author puts her characters into interesting situations and she's clearly done her research and includes a wonderful bibliography at the end of the book. Fortunately she doesn't make her characters white saviors and in fact shows how good intentions can have negative results.
For me, it was a great blend of women's fiction and historical fiction a 4.5 that I'll round up to a 5 star review. 
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an advance copy in exchange for a candid review.
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College roommates! If you’re unlucky, as I was, you will be relieved when she is expelled. If you’re lucky, you will get along. If you’re really lucky, you will have a lifetime friend. Daniella and Eve were really lucky. Their connection was deep and lasted through their lives. They first met at a small, Southern women’s college where Daniella was denied admission to a sorority because she is Jewish. She was actually Unitarian, but her father was Jewish and she called herself Jewnitarian. In solidarity, Eve refused her admission to the sorority and transferred with Daniella to Barnard in New York.

It was a time of activism and organizing and Eve and Daniella went on different paths, met and fell in love with very different men. It is interesting how Eve embodies the activist personality while Daniella is the organizer. They are very different. Eve writes a letter about how the school treats their maids, citing the experience of the maid she knows, who is promptly fired. She never once asks permission of the maid for whom she advocated. That’s an activist for you.

Daniella does the hard work of Freedom Summer, living with Black families and being guided by their opinion. Contrast Eve’s advocating for the maids with Daniella’s complex understanding of being a white ally. “They are the only ones who go through every day of their lives in colored skin, skin they cannot peel off just to have a temporary respite from the abuse it brings. They are the ones who can teach us about oppression in America, because they live on the receiving end of it . And they are the ones who can teach us about resistance, about standing up for human rights. Those of us with white skin can empathize, can stand in solidarity, but we can always trick ourselves into thinking things aren’t so bad. We are allowed to make up stories about “the race situation” because we don’t have to bear the burden of it on our own bodies.”

The difference between activism and organizing is profound and it continues to be a fault line in Eve and Daniella’s friendship. Eve feels contempt for Daniella’s commitment to working to change the system from within, “When it came to the system, the only thing you could “change from within” was yourself. Entering the system would change you. You would acclimate to its norms.” This is a common criticism of those seeking systemic change through lobbying and legislation, though it ignores the many degrees of “within” there are.

Eve’s activism leads to living underground until a crisis forces her to reach out for help to Daniella. The story continues to the next generation, until they, too, go to college. Through it all, you can see how the journey of an activist contrasts to an organizer as Eve is easily led to new enthusiasms while Daniella’s commitment is more measured and constant.



I enjoyed We Are All Good People Here. I don’t know if Susan Rebecca White intended to contrast activists with organizers, but she did. We see that same conflict now, between those who want to win change by doing the work and those who want to be seen wanting to win change. I loved how these women embodied two very different strains of the Sixties and Seventies and how their experiences then affected them and their daughters.

We Are All Good People Here will be released on August 6th. I received an e-galley for review from the publisher through NetGalley.

We Are All Good People Here at Atria | Simon & Schuster
Susan Rebecca White author site
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I have such mixed feelings about this book.  What starts out as a book about a friendship soon takes a left turn so drastic that I almost abandoned it.  I’m glad I didn’t because the story did redeem itself somewhat.

The main characters, Eve and Daniella meet at college and become close friends.  They are both intelligent and care about the injustices in our society.  The problem is they each have a different way of trying to “fix” these various injustices.

I liked that the author recognized the controversies of the 60’s, but at some point it just got to be too much, especially when one of the characters takes an extreme radical turn.  At this point, I almost abandoned the book because I didn’t want to read about all the hatred and immoral lifestyle of the fanatical group the character found herself involved with.

Thankfully, the path of the story changed and Eve and Daniella end up cultivating an adult friendship that continues as they grow older.  The story goes into the 80’s and beyond, bringing up just about every controversial issue our society has faced throughout the years.  

I enjoyed reading about the friendship and how it endured over the years, but the “hot-button” topics in the story was a bit overdone, in my opinion.

Thanks go to NetGalley and Atria Books for allowing me to read an advance copy and give my honest review.
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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.

     

 

My Thoughts: We Are All Good People Here begins in a college setting in the early 1960s. Two girls from very different families meet there; join in the activities, including sorority rushes; and gradually form the values that will carry them forward in their lives. The changes in their lives come from what is happening in the world around them.

Daniella was the steadier of the two, in my opinion, while Eve flipped from her entitled upbringing to the radical causes she would follow for years, long after the college days had ended.

Civil rights, Vietnam war protesting, and sometimes outrageous behavior would characterize Eve’s life, although Daniella did take time to help the voter registration cause in Mississippi one summer.

Our tale spans decades, taking us along to their adult relationships and experiences, including the rearing of their daughters. Seeing how the mothers’ values impacted their daughters was interesting to me.

Touching on historical moments for the country revealed what these characters were experiencing over the years. An intriguing journey that earned 4.5 stars from me.

***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.
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Thank you to Atria Books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Will be posted to all links 7/17 (Amazon 8/6)

I've never given the summary of a book up front but with We Are All Good People Here by Susan Rebecca White, I feel the need to do so. If only because I want everyone to understand the potential of this book. I don't want everyone to just hear my review of the book. I want everyone to matter-of-factly read what it is about and why I chose it.

I am very picky about the adult books I choose to read and review. And I really believed, from the moment I read the summary you will read that it was timely and important to our current times (sad as that might be), while having the potential of being a great story, as well.

Summary:

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.

I went as far as discussing this book with my mom, who lived through the civil rights movement. I did this for two reasons. First, well not because I'm not an idiot (well I'm not a genus either), nor because I don't have any idea what the civil rights movement was, or what occurred during that time. However, I am quite aware that I didn't live through it. And much like those who talk about 9/11, but weren't in New York City that day, your feelings and experiences are valid, they just aren't the same. 

Second, because researching White before requesting the book and again, after reading the book, I found her to be a best-selling novelist who with four novels has become steadily better overtime, critically acclaimed and nominated for numerous awards throughout this time. 

However, having talked to my mom my conclusion was quite the same. While her research is solid. There isn't a gap in her awareness or knowledge in the thirty years that this story traverses. The issue is that in her dogmatic need to nail the history, she forgot ... the story. 

The plot is slow. The characters become bland. The promise of familiar bonds that are stretched over secrets dug up from the past lose the suspense that should have you hanging rooting for or against one and/or more of these characters (I don't want to give anything away should you choose to read it).

Because I could never buy-in to the characters from the get-go, I never really felt their inner-turmoil. I never felt thrown into the gut-wrenching decisions or situations they faced. The lives they lived, what they faced and how it affected them down the road fell flat because it was more like reading a history book than a fictional story. 

I am not a writer and I am not saying it is easy to weave the two, although I have read books where it is done splendidly. However, it is just not done in We Are All Good People Here, which is a shame because the potential for a great story within great context was definitely there. 

Full Disclaimer: There is a horrific animal brutality scene involving a cat. This did not help matters- especially with me. Take it for what it is worth. This does not spoil anything- but I think it is fair to disclose knowing how I feel about animal brutality, especially with my three boys. Lord knows it didn't help the Devouring Grey.
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In 1962, wealthy Southern belle Eve Whalen meets her college roommate Daniella Gold and they quickly become best friends. Daniella begins to open Eve's eyes to the injustices of the world which the well-meaning but naive Eve thinks she can change in an instance. Over time, Daniella works hard to change the world from within the current social system, while Eve becomes extremely radicalized. 

A tale of two women trying to fight justice in a harsh world, We Are All Good People is in many way similar to Mrs. Everything, yet since its scope is a bit narrower, I enjoyed it much more. I loved the contrast between the two women - the pragmatic Daniella and the suggestible Eve, and particularly liked that in the end that each had to take stock of the good they did, but also the opportunities they let slip by. A strong book, it does loses steam at the end talking about Eve and Daniella's children, but all in all I'm glad I read it.
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We Are All Good People Here is an excellent read. Two girls, from different backgrounds, become college roommates in 1963. The tumultuous decade affects each differently. One persues social justice while the other seems to be settling into conventionality. Their paths diverge until Eva, who had lived as an underground radical for years, resurfaces because of a major change in her life. The friends have two daughters who become close friends too. The novel encompasses most of gen major occurrences from 1963-1992. It's a good read. I thought the ending was a little weak, but it's a good story.
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I seem to be on a roll reading historical fiction, especially books about the 1960s.  We Are All Good People Here, starts in the 1960s and moves forward, tracking two women that meet as college freshmen.  Despite opposite backgrounds, they bond.  So much of this brought memories flooding back to me.   White totally captures the times - the racial inequities, the sexism, the politics.   At first, I worried that this was going to be women’s lit, fluff and the characters would be caricatures.  But White surprised me.  There are some hard core scenes here, one of which caused me to lose all respect for Eve.  A respect I never did retrieve, especially as she seems to move from just following one man or another.   Flip side, I found Daniella to be totally relatable as she seeks to fight first the sexism and then, the racism of the day.  

The story drags in the middle, as we veer from one generation to the next.  To be honest, I never quite regained my interest in the book after we move into the third decade.  It came across as just trying to tick off the hot issues - date rape, acceptance of gays, the rise of conservative religious beliefs.  

I’m thinking this is a case of the author trying to do too much.  I can’t help but wonder if I would have liked the book more if it had just stayed focused on Eve and Daniella and their earlier years. 

My thanks to netgalley and Atria Books for an advance copy of this book.
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The premise of this story is intriguing: two girls meet in college, become friends, one is pulled toward the radical counter-culture, and then story covers three decades of social upheaval and change in America. However, the potential was lost for me by weak character growth and shallow thematic development. Daniella, who does what society expects, and Eve who blows the doors off her southern familial expectations, are never fully flushed out, at least not for me. Why does Eve go off the rails? What inspired her? What keeps these two friends together when they seemingly have nothing in common - distinct family backgrounds, lack of mutual life goals, different taste in life partners, vastly disparate maturity levels? This story skimmed over the surface for me, water-skiing across issues that I wanted more developed, and simplistic answers given to complex questions. It does keep you turning pages, but unfortunately did not go the direction I was hoping. Thanks to Net Galley for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
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3.5/5 I went back and forth between liking and not liking this book. Some of the moments depicted were so raw and real, while others were just long and frustrating. As a reader, I think it can be hard to have a main character be both the hero and the villain of their own story. I know that's how life is sometimes, but it can also make characters seem like their personalities are being altered just to fit into a planned out story.
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Based in the 60's this was a interesting read for me as it was not a time period that I grew up in. I enjoyed learning about this time in history through the friendship of Eve and Daniella.

When Eve and Daniella meet in college they become fast friends even though they come from very different backgrounds. While in college they begin to see the injustice of the South and plan to do something about it. While they both turn to protests and groups that oppose these things, Eve seems to dive deeper and deeper into radicalism. During this time the girls grow apart but are reunited when Eve wants to restart her life. 

We see the two grow back together as friends as they raise their girls. This is a great story about life long friendships and how to deal with ideological differences in those friendships. This is a great fun fast read about two friends who drift apart and come back together.
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We Are All Good People Here leads you to ponder the question “What is a good person?”  Is it the person with nice things who attends church every Sunday and lives life as he or she is expected or is it the person who bucks the norm a little bit for the sake of what they believe is right? 

Multigenerational stories are one of my favorite types and White did not disappoint with this one. This story weaves together the events that bring two women apart and bring them back together throughout their lives an how their actions- both past and present- have an impact on those they love. I could not put this book down and felt it ended perfectly with all the questions I had answered (though not all answers were what I expected). If you are a fan of Parenthood and This Is Us type stories this is the book for you! 

A special thanks to Netgalley and Atria books for an advanced copy of this book- all thoughts in this review are completely my own.
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