We Are All Good People Here by Susan Rebecca White
Susan Rebecca White's novels brim with fascinating characters and compelling settings, both in and out of the South. Her writing style is detailed, immersive, and you feel like her characters could stand up and walk off the pages. If I ran into one of them at the grocery store, I swear I'd recognize them on sight.
Her latest novel (she has written four) follows two friends as they struggle to separate (or embrace) their pasts and how those decisions intersect with their obligation (if any) to help society. The challenges accrete when both Daniella and Evie become mothers and wrestle with the best way to raise their daughters. It was particularly fascinating to read this during the events of this summer, when we were all forced to deal with the wounds of our past.
After reading WAAGPH, I turned to White's other books and found myself drawn more than I would have anticipated to her descriptions of Atlanta in the 90s. Everything changes after 20+ years, and Atlanta is no exception. Many of White's scenes are set where I grew up and it had been years since I'd thought about them. During quarantine, when I was missing so much, it was a joy to imaginatively wonder through the city of my childhood. The scene in the much-beloved, now closed Oxford books in WAAGPH, was a particularly nostalgic moment. White got it absolutely right: the employees were in their signature blue vests and the cafe in the upstairs corner was open.
This emotional reaction is what White goes for and her pitch is usually perfect. The beautiful realism of her novels is made possible by her tremendous attention to detail, and her writer's eye is as perceptive as a camera lens. I'm excited to see what she does next.