All the Best People

Written by Sonja Yoerg
Review by Elizabeth Caulfield Felt

In Vermont in the late 1920s, Solange was a young woman who fell in love, married, and had a baby. Her husband was a young lawyer from a wealthy family; she was from the other side of town. In the 1970s, Solange lives in a mental institution. Her daughter Carole is happily married with two teen boys and a 12-year-old girl, when she begins hearing voices. Carole, afraid of ending up like her mother, hides her mental degradation as best she can. Carole’s daughter Alison knows something is wrong, but cannot understand what it is—and nobody will listen to her. Carole’s sister Janine is too selfish to notice anything.

Yoerg moves between each female character and the dual time periods with skill. The character development is superb. The young Solange is brave and intelligent and incredibly interesting. Quiet, hardworking Carole has always been the perfect sister, perfect mother, perfect wife. Now she’s terrified. Yoerg’s language captures her fall into schizophrenia perfectly. Alison, on the doorstep of adolescence, sees her mother pulling away and doesn’t know what to think. Selfish, ambitious Janine begins a new romantic relationship that has the possibility of changing who she is.

While this is a character-driven novel, the story is also suspenseful. The plot tangles and untangles in ways unexpected. Ultimately All the Best People is a story that turns on the question of nature vs. nurture. What is the greatest influence in who we are as people? Do we have a choice about who we are? A perfect selection for book clubs. Highly recommended.