We Are All Good People Here
Susan Rebecca White
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.