The Best Kind of People

Zoe Whittal

A very engaging story about a stereotypical, seemingly-perfect family in a small Connecticut town suddenly thrown into distress when the father George Woodbury, a science teacher at a private school, is accused of sexual misconduct after a school-related ski trip. Years before he had tackled a gunman in the school, saving students from a potential massacre, so these two events seem at polar ends to each other. Zoe Whittal interestingly does not include any direct perspective from the accused or his alleged victim, leaving the family and readers to wrestle with the accusations and the brunt of the fall-out, as the community largely turns against the Woodburys as a result of George’s arrest.

This is most difficult for the daughter Sadie, who spirals into despair, her father’s arrest coming just after midnight on her 17th birthday. While totally understandable on one level, considering she is the youngest and basically the same age as the girl who has accused her father, it seems a bit cliché when she seeks out the bad kids from the public school, breaks up with her model teenage boyfriend, and then gets a crush on an older man. The mother Judy and older son Andrew have more nuanced, though not any less anguished responses, but that could entirely just be the benefit of greater maturity. Sadie is obviously more in the thick of it, still attending the school where her father taught.

In the end, I’m not entirely sure whether Whittal was trying to say something specific about the greater experience of these kinds of accusations and crimes, but her insight into how they can affects a family and community makes for a compelling novel. It’s easier for people outside of the family to immediately reframe George as a bad person, but his family can’t just turn their backs on him. I wish there was a more profound conclusion, but The Best Kind of People is very much worth the read regardless.