All The Best People by Sonja Yoerg – 368 pages
Vermont, 1972. Carole LaPorte has a satisfying, ordinary life. She cares for her children, balances the books for the family’s auto shop and laughs when her husband slow dances her across the kitchen floor. Her tragic childhood might have happened to someone else.
But now her mind is playing tricks on her. The accounts won’t reconcile and the murmuring she hears isn’t the television. She ought to seek help, but she’s terrified of being locked away in a mental hospital like her mother, Solange. So Carole hides her symptoms, withdraws from her family and unwittingly sets her eleven-year-old daughter Alison on a desperate search for meaning and power: in Tarot cards, in omens from a nearby river and in a mysterious blue glass box belonging to her grandmother.
My Review: 4.5 stars
All The Best People is a look at motherhood, mental illness, legacy and prejudice. It’s a hard book to define and I’m at a loss of words to describe in a way that won’t give away this engrossing story.
Told from the POV of three women: grandmother, mother and daughter, the reader is sucked into the madness of their situations from the late 1920s to mid 1970. Madness comes in many shades so I use that term loosely. Each of these women is well developed and I found myself connecting with each of their struggles and emotions.
We learn about the politics in 1920s Vermont between the lower class and the upper class, which were quite severe thus marriages between the two classes were an oddity. The lower class were considered to have “pirate” blood and thus not nearly as exemplary as the upper class. People who spoke out about this nonsense could be committed to asylums. Especially women who were already a lower class based just on their gender.
We also live inside the mind of someone who is slowly losing her mind. The author trapped us in there in just long enough sections to feel the utter pain that abides. How this affects a family is shown with great delicacy and truth. The daughter, whose having the hardest time, is struggling to find her mom who no one else seems to know is lost.
The writing in this book is sharp and emotional. This is the first Yoerg book I’ve read but it certainly won’t be my last.
Quotes I liked:
Summer was down to the last lick of ice cream before the cone collapsed.”
-“”What is in your blood matters, but not as much as what is in your heart.”
-“Carole was also realistic about hope, which she could hold in abundance and yet never have enough.”
-“The unfortunate don’t suffer from inherited defects. They suffer from poverty.”
-“You can’t know how things will turn out. That’s not in our power – or anyone’s. But you can know where you belong.”
-“Alison’s words were falling stones. Carole reached to grab them, to hold them, to put them in order. It was so hard, the stones so heavy. The words kept coming. Her daughter’s face was before her, her lovely, dear face, and she could no nothing to help her. Not now, not while the voices were drowning her out, burying sense and decency and love.”