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 daughter’s 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 men’s rights activist group attempts to recruit Sadie for their cause.
My Thoughts: From the very beginning of The Best Kind of People, I felt drawn into the lives of the Woodburys, especially Sadie and Joan. Their reactions to the events that unfolded felt real and spoke to how one might experience being blindsided in such a way.
Multiple narrators, including Joan, Sadie, Andrew, and Kevin brought out the way a community and a family are impacted by an arrest of a beloved individual. How should any of them feel? Should the family give unwavering support to a man who might be guilty? Should all who knew him for years be immediately on his side? Would the media presence affect how they reacted?
Visiting George in prison was another shock to reality for those whose previous experiences did not prepare them for this new normal.
How does Kevin’s new novel change how others view him? Can Sadie find a way to interpret the betrayals she sees all around her? Will she find a way to deal with those who believe that her family is somehow tainted by her father?
The activists were the most disturbing aspect for me, as the tendency to blame feminism for the allegations of the girls struck a wrong chord with me. While I did not necessarily believe the girls, since, despite what the proponents of victims’ rights might claim, teenage girls do occasionally lie, I could not align myself with those who slapped such a label on their cause.
In the end, the trial seemed to happen off stage, just as much of George’s experiences seemed separate from what everyone else was going through. As a result, the outcome felt flat and tepid. I was no longer at all sure about what was true or how to feel. 4.5 stars.