In the early 1960’s two young women become roommates and best friends in their freshman year at the southern women’s college of Belmont, and this friendship is the premise of this lovely, character-driven novel by Susan Rebecca White. Both Eve and Daniella are born into privilege, but Eve comes from an old southern family with staunch traditions and requirements (join a certain sorority, be proper, marry, have children, continue the tradition etc). When they realize their school house’s maid has to stay on campus during the weekdays overnight Eve tries to make a difference, and is faced with her first realization of how unjust the system really is – this is the girls’ first (albeit misguided) step into civil rights activism. As the girls grow older they drift apart, and come back together again over the years. Eve falls into radical anti-war activism, while Daniella pursues a law career while still focusing on civil rights and politics. One huge event brings the women back together again, and they then settle into comfortable lives, never realizing the past may be lying in wait.
My all-time favorite author is Marge Piercy, and We Are All Good People reminds me a lot of her work (in a good way!). This novel is a story of coming of age in the 60’s but also the early 90’s, of activism, of radical activism, of privilege, of feminism, of friendship, of family, and also of recent history. The prose is gorgeous, each voice distinct and powerful, and it flows perfectly: I couldn’t put it down and kept thinking about the plot and the characters. Eve and Daniella are both flawed and full of good sides, rounded characters, humans. At times you want to hug them, be their best friends, or shout at them, sometimes all of that at once. But most of all you want them to all be OK.
I love these types of stories that explore real women growing up and fighting against what is expected of them. Do they always win? No, but without the fight we wouldn’t be where we are today, and they are a reminder that we still have a lot to do. At the beginning of the novel there is an editor’s note stating that it took the author 5 years to write this novel (and the author also states this in her acknowledgements). I think these 5 years were well spent, as this novel is just wonderful, researched, whole, and a fantastic read. I have personally not read any of the other novels written by Susan Rebecca White, but shall be adding them to my TBR now!
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the advance copy of this wonderful novel!