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COVER Whittall Best Kind of People

I keep thinking about this book. Great story, memorable characters, kept me guessing (although most do – I’m horrible at figuring out the mystery in a mystery!) So, why do I have such mixed feelings about it?

I hadn’t read anything by Zoe Whittall, although she has written award-winning “literary fiction”…but I liked the description of The Best Kind of People, and appreciate the chance to receive an advance copy from Random House and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Here’s the outline: the Woodbury family live a privileged life in an affluent suburb (named Avalon Hills, Connecticut…but think Greenwich). The patriarch, George, teaches science at the local prep school, and is regarded as a hero because he once stopped a gunman from shooting up the school. His wife, Joan, is a hardworking ER nurse, described as “…under five foot two with the practical haircut of every nurse on the trauma ward…blended into the faceless mass of small-town life.” They have two children: Sadie, a student at the school where George teaches, and Andrew, who is an attorney living with his partner in Manhattan (where he escaped the homophobic environment in Avalon Hills). Sadie has spent “…years she’d wished she could just get over the awkward, in-between feeling of being a teenaged girl, the feeling of being ugly in the body that is probably the most beautiful you will eve have.” The parents are described as “…the academic sort, floating brains in denial of the body.”

One night the quiet at their expansive home is broken when a police car pulls up and George is charged with sexual misconduct with girls from the prep school when he was a chaperone on a ski trip. —with students from his daughter’s school. Sadie, who has enjoyed status as a smart and popular high school senior, becomes a social outcast. Andrew returns home to support the family, and finds he has to confront unhappy memories. A men’s rights activist group gets involved and attempts to recruit Sadie for their cause. So there’s a lot going on!

I like the way the story demonstrates the way that “perfect” families in “perfect” towns aren’t always what they seem, and how fragile relationships can be, especially when unpleasant truths about relationships are revealed. There is a lot to ponder as Whittall explores issues of trust, love, and rape culture.

So, why the mixed feelings? I ABSOLUTELY HATED THE ENDING. And I mean the very ending…the final paragraph. But I still give it five stars because maybe it’s just me, and it was a good read and it made me think.