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All the Best People

 

By:  Sonja Yoerg

ISBN: 0399583491

Publisher:  Penguin/Berkley

Publication Date: 5/2/2017

Format: Other

My Rating: 5 Stars

An intricately crafted story of madness, magic and misfortune across three generations from the author of The Middle of Somewhere and House Broken...

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. 
 
An exploration of the power of courage and love to overcome a damning legacy, All the Best People celebrates the search for identity and grace in the most ordinary lives.

 

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My Review

 

Storyteller Sonja Yoerg returns following The Middle of Somewhere and Housebroken with her most powerful book yet, ALL THE BEST PEOPLE – beautiful, complex, incisive. 

 

Crossing three generations, told with compassion —from water symbolism, class conflicts; love, madness, secrets, and a little magic. 

 

“Mad Hatter: Have I gone mad?
Alice: I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. 
But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.” 
– Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

Set in Vermont 1972, Carole recalls when she was ten-years-old, her mother Solange was committed to Underhill State Hospital. A tragic childhood. 

 

Even though her father said she was going for a much-needed rest, soon the reality hit. Her mother was institutionalized. She had been locked up for thirty-four years. Carol knew she was there; however, she did not anticipate her mother might abandon reality entirely and never return.

 

Before Solange Gifford had been committed she had been the center of Carole’s world. Carole was left confused and she often overheard other say she was mad, not tired. Carole had promised her mother she would care for her sister and protect her, even though she was a child herself.

 

Now as a wife and mother, Carole starts experiencing her own alarming incidents. She is determined she will not be locked away, like her own mother. Instead, she hides her schizophrenic symptoms and withdraws from her family.

 

Presently, her eleven-year-old daughter, Alison takes on the world. Intuitive and perceptive. A desperate search for meaning and power. From tarot cards, in omens from a nearby river and in a mysterious blue glass box belonging to her grandmother. Her great Grandmother had given it to her Grandmother. 

 

Carole’s sister Janine rarely went to see their mother. She is angry. The place made her ill, the spell and the air of hopelessness. There was nothing for Janine there. A woman trapped. She was unlike her sister who had ten good years with their mother. Her mother did not understand her as an adult—thinking of her as a baby. Lies and secrets. 

 

We hear from Janine, Carole, Alison, and Solange. From the 1930s and 1970s- an array of emotions from hatred, revenge, fright, terror, isolation, guilt, betrayal, desperation, madness, and ultimately striving for acceptance, grace, and unconditional love.

 

Wrenching yet ultimately uplifting, the human capacity to maintain grace under unrelenting fire. A haunting story . . . well-researched, a candid portrayal of mental illness from multiple perspectives. 

 

Throughout the years, we have read the horrors of mental illness, often misunderstood by society. However, in literature, we can appreciate how talented authors such as Yoerg— offering a deeper understanding of the darkness through different eyes. Allowing the light to shine through the cracks. 

 

One-in-eight-chance of developing schizophrenia. There is no remedy for the guilt if passed on. "What is in your blood matters, but not as much as what is in your heart." 

 

Not only the patient but those close to the family and carried down through generations. Each person reacts differently using protecting mechanics, denial, anger, and often worrying about their own reputations or reactions from those outside the family unit.

 

Heartbreakingly real characters, multi-generational, and dual timelines with lyrical prose, symbolism, metaphors such as bodies of water. Solange and the lake, Alison and the river, Carole and the ocean. Each has special meaning. A fitting title and cover image. An ideal choice for book clubs and further discussions (discussion questions included). 

 

A huge fan of literary fiction, love the author’s writing style, reminding me of T. Greenwood and Chris Bohjalian— two other favorites, often using Vermont as their book settings with stunning metaphors.  

 

On a personal note: Enjoyed the tarot card readings. (intriguing) I have some interesting stories, evolving from readings in New Orleans which ultimately came true, years later. 

 

Highly Recommend! looking forward to what Sonja has in store for her readers next. Always a unique journey.

 

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Advance Praise 

 

 

“Not just the best people, but real people: authentic, quirky and troubled. I cared for them all." —Chris Bohjalian, New York Times bestselling author of The Guest Room and The Sleepwalker

 

“Yoerg spins the story of a family on the brink of collapse—writing with tenderness, grace, and truth.” —Randy Susan Meyers, bestselling author of Accidents of Marriage

 

“Deftly and with the delicate brush of a master, Yoerg draws us into this brilliant, multi-generational saga of love, madness, mysticism and the markings they leave on a family.” —Christopher Scotton, author of The Secret Wisdom of the Earth

 

“A powerful and haunting novel about betrayal and shame, acceptance and unconditional love. Book clubs will devour it.” — Barbara Claypole White, bestselling author of The Perfect Son and Echoes of Family

 

"A stirring tale of mothers and daughters, their secrets and their strength…a mesmerizing read." — Lynda Cohen Loigman, author of The Two-Family House

 

“All the Best People is gorgeously written and chock-full of captivating and colorful characters. Unforgettable, your heart will break and swell in equal measure.” — Kate Moretti, New York Times bestselling author of The Vanishing Year
 

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About the Author

 

 

Sonja Yoerg grew up in Stowe, Vermont, where she financed her college education by waitressing at the Trapp Family Lodge. She earned her Ph.D. in Biological Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley and published a nonfiction book about animal intelligence, Clever as a Fox (Bloomsbury USA, 2001). Her novels, House Broken (January 2015) and
Middle of Somewhere (September 2015) are published by Penguin/NAL. Sonja lives with her husband in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Read More 

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