2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist
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.
Whittall places the reader right at the centre of their pain. It’s the best depiction of female suffering I’ve read since Jane Smiley eloquently tackled sexual abuse in A Thousand Acres.
With incredibly rare nuance, sensitivity, and insight, Zoe Whittall takes us deep into our contemporary conversation around sexual violence and shines a vital spotlight on the individuals and communities that live in its long shadow. Whittall’s undisputed talent as a writer shines, as does her understanding into the complexity of our sympathies, our morality, and our humanity. With The Best Kind of People, Whittall has created an urgent and timely document, one that asks us to reflect on how we can best serve survivors of abuse and best support all of those who exist in its aftermath. With incredible empathy, and undeniable skill, this book is sure to spark much needed dialogue, vital debate, and richly deserved acclaim.
Fast-paced . . . but never melodramatic.
The Best Kind of People examines the effects of rape culture on an entire community with rare nuance and insight. Every character is fully rounded, flawed, and achingly human. It puts me in mind of a twenty-first-century Ordinary People — which, for the record, is one of my favourite novels.
The jury found Zoe Whittall’s The Best Kind of People urgent and timely, nuanced and brave. This gripping story challenges how we hear women and girls, and dissects the self-hypnosis and fear that prevent us from speaking disruptive truth. With subversive precision and solid veracity, Whittall calls into question pervasive forms of silence and acquiescence.
Heartbreaking and complex, The Best Kind of People offers no easy answers. This is a masterly exploration of the damage an entire community incurs when the secret at the heart of its most perfect family detonates.
Nuanced to the end, Whittall’s novel achieves something that’s rare in real-life cases of sexual violence. She gives a voice to the ones we never hear from: those who are collateral damage.
Toronto author Zoe Whittall’s new novel The Best Kind of People is the best kind of book — it’s got a compelling story characters readers will recognize and come to love and writing that makes it effortless to turn page after page.
An astounding portrait of a character by omission.