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The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall

The Best Kind of People (2016)

by Zoe Whittall

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George Woodbury is the greatest guy. In affluent, co-op food-store-supporting, Starbucks-gulping, small-town Connecticut, he’s voted Teacher of the Year, every year, at the elite prep school. He’s even a local hero, having once taken down a school shooter. Everyone loves George, and his self-sacrificing nurse wife Joan, and his grown son living in the big city, and his sweet daughter who attends the school.

Until four students of George come forward and claim he sexually assaulted them.

The most insightful aspect of this book is what it isn’t about. It isn’t about these four girls who claim to have been assaulted. It isn’t about the assault. It isn’t about whether George is guilty or innocent. It isn’t even about George.

This book is the tale of George’s wife, the shattering of her perfect marriage, the dissolution of the future she envisioned cushioned with trust fund money and easy retirement. It’s the story of George’s son, a once-closeted gay man who has to return to the hometown full of homophobes who bullied him into psychosis. This is the story of Sadie, George’s daughter, who once considered him her hero, and now wonders if she was deluded. Now the only certainties in her life are her passion for marijuana and a much older man.

The ramifications of these allegations don’t simply vanish after the trial. George’s guilt or innocence isn’t the issue at all. This book explores the lesser-known effects of the other victims of assault: the family members who are blind-sided with doubts about what they once held as truths.

Some reviewers complained that the ending left nothing resolved, but I disagree. The ending is true to life. Life goes on, people live through this, and have to live with this, for the rest of their lives. If George is guilty or if George is innocent, the ramifications of this ordeal remain. The doubts never go away.

I appreciated this exploration on the consequences of sexual assault allegations that extend beyond the accused and their victims. The writing is fast-paced enough to keep the readers’ interest. Occasionally, the cliches surfaced (wealthy prep school, small snobby town, organic food markets), and some editing might have reduced the repetitiveness of some of the anger and anxiety, but overall it was a good story, and worth recommending.

Many thanks to Random House Publishing, Netgalley, and the author for this advance copy in exchange for my honest review. ( )
  ErickaS | May 2, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
George is a science teacher at an exclusive college prep academy, who became the town hero after thwarting an attempting gunman at the school many years previously. Now, many years later, the entire community is disrupted after several girls come forward accusing George of sexual misconduct and George is placed in jail pending the trial. George's wife, a well-respected RN, is shocked and in disbelief regarding the allegations. His teen daughter and young adult son are unsure what to believe as more information comes to light in contrast to the father they have always known. Ultimately, the family is left to deal with the aftermath of George's actions as they face intense scrutiny by their small community over the course of many months before George goes to trial.

I enjoyed the general concept of this novel, which was timely and covered the full range of perspectives regarding how the alleged offender is perceived by the community. The role of the media is also included, as their rush to blame the accused or dismiss the girls' allegations also impacts the community. George's family members and the girls all become victims, as they are harshly treated by most of the community for their roles in the situation. In all, a well-considered novel that accurately portrays how these events typically play out and impact everyone involved. ( )
  voracious | Feb 21, 2018 |
While this novel wasn't perfect, I must say that I really enjoyed it. The story switches into different perspectives throughout the novel with the exception of George, which I found really intriguing. The novel did quite a good job in portraying the difficulties that the family of the accused faces before and after a terrible scandal. The author really showed how people can go from being friends to enemies in the blink of an eye, and how hard it can be for a family to support someone that they love, even while facing the possibility that their loved one is guilty of committing an atrocious crime. In the beginning, I was more interested in finding out whether George was guilty or not but as the story progressed, I found myself empathizing with the members of his family - especially Joan. I think that while Andrew and Sadie were hard to empathize with, Joan was depicted quite nicely as the pillar of support. Her character kept me intrigued and it was with her that I felt the most connected. I wish the author had spent more time developing Sadie and Andrew, since they mostly came off as selfish and sometimes a little stupid. The story does skip around in terms of the time frame but it was necessary; it kept the pace brisk and kept me interested. While the author may not have gotten every legal aspect correct, she did shed light on the struggles that the victims themselves face during a court trial. Being painted as a liar or as someone who has done something to deserve it.... these are terrible accusations especially when the victims are pressing charges regarding a sexual encounter but these accusations really do occur in the real world; the media and even some locals can go against the victims, causing justice to not be served. It was something that the author really honed in on and I'm glad she did because I never really considered this issue before. The ending made me really sad. It highlighted the tragedy that occurs in the justice system and showed how no one really wins. Overall, this novel has a high-impact plot that will make you see things from various different perspectives. I think that the plot and the important issues that are raised by the author are strong enough to overpower the negatives, so this is a novel that I would definitely recommend! ( )
  veeshee | Jan 29, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Received as a Library Thing Early Reviewer
I was excited to receive this book and looked forward to reading it. The premiss was good, the most likable good man, a teacher accused of sexual misconduct. The story takes off from there, but I felt in a very round about way. Once George, the accused is imprisoned pending his trial, you hear very little about him. The story follows how his family, wife a well respected nurse, High School aged daughter and son, an attorney who is gay deal with their personal reactions to the possibility of his guilt. I felt the book rambled in ways that were not helpful to the overall storyline. I kept waiting for the trial, and to find out if he was indeed guilty of what he was being charged with. Finally, after finding out the same thing had happened early on in their marriage, after their first child was born, and he had successfully hidden it all those years. The trial came at the very end and was a bit of a disappointment. After all the build up, all the wondering, the ending was disappointing. ( )
  berylweidenbach | Jan 9, 2018 |
I was disappointed in this book. I thought it had a good beginning with an interesting story line, and I was anxious to see where it lead. Sadly, from my point of view it went nowhere that I wanted to go.
This book seemed to have a lot of filler stuff like extra characters that were not relevant and even distracting as well as repetitive scenes and confusing directions. It was like meandering down dead end streets looking for an unknown destination. I got tired and bored, but I still held out hope of an ending that would bring everything together.
That was my biggest disappointment. The ending was abrupt-sometimes that works well, but in this case it didn't work at all for me. Perhaps I missed something, but I didn't connect with this story or the author's direction. I am more than happy to leave this book and head into a new read.
My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this title. ( )
  c.archer | Jan 9, 2018 |
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After every war someone has to clear up. Things won't straighten themselves up, after all. Someone has to push the rubble to the side of the road, so the corpse-filled wagons can pass. Someone has to get mired in scum and ashes, sofa springs, splintered glass, and bloody rags. Someone has to drag in a girder to prop up a wall. Someone has to glaze a window, rehang a door. -- Wislawa Szymborska, "The End and the Beginning".
[Rape Culture's] most devilish trick is to make the average, non-criminal person identify with the person accused, instead of the person reporting the crime... -- Kate Harding, Asking for It
For Jake Pyne
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Almost a decade earlier, a man with a .45-70 Marlin hunting rifle walked through the front doors of Avalon Hills prep school.
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amazon ca : What if someone you trusted was accused of the unthinkable?

George Woodbury, an affable teacher and beloved husband and father, is arrested for sexual impropriety at a prestigious prep school. His wife, Joan, vaults between denial and rage as the community she loved turns on her. Their daughter, Sadie, a popular over-achieving high school senior, becomes a social pariah. Their son, Andrew, assists in his father’s defense, while wrestling with his own unhappy memories of his teen years. A local author tries to exploit their story, while an unlikely men’s rights activist attempts to get Sadie onside their cause. With George locked up, how do the members of his family pick up the pieces and keep living their lives? How do they defend someone they love while wrestling with the possibility of his guilt?

With exquisite emotional precision, award-winning author Zoe Whittall explores issues of loyalty, truth, and the meaning of happiness through the lens of an all-American family on the brink of collapse.
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The Woodburys cherish life in the affluent, bucolic suburb of Avalon Hills, Connecticut. George is a beloved science teacher at the local prep school, a hero who once thwarted a gunman, and his wife, Joan, is a hardworking ER nurse. They have brought up their children in this thriving town of wooded yards and sprawling lakes. Then one night a police car pulls up to the Woodbury home and George is charged with sexual misconduct with students from his daughters school. As he sits in prison awaiting trial and claiming innocence, Joan vaults between denial and rage as friends and neighbors turn cold. Their daughter, seventeen-year-old Sadie, is a popular high school senior who becomes a social outcast and finds refuge in an unexpected place. Her brother, Andrew, a lawyer in New York, returns home to support the family, only to confront unhappy memories from his past. A writer tries to exploit their story, while an unlikely mens rights activist group attempts to recruit Sadie for their cause.… (more)

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