Monday, October 31, 2016

All the Best People, by Sonja Yoerg

Berkley Books, ISBN 9780399583490, May 2017

Carole LaPorte has had an up-and-down life. A happy childhood underwent a dramatic change when she was ten, and her sister Janine was born. For reasons that make no sense to her at the time, suddenly her mother, Solange, tries to take the baby to her own mother, Carole's grandmother, Rosemarie Bouchard. Her father, Osborn Gifford, arrives with police in support. Carole finds herself holding her baby sister, while her mother is hurried off to a hospital for an illness Carole doesn't understand.

As an adult, she meets Walt LaPorte, falls in love, and embarks on a warm, loving, supportive marriage, eventually having three children, Warren, Lester, and Alison. As good as this marriage is, Carole now lives with the knowledge that her mother's illness is mental illness. She's the only one in the family who regularly visits Solange. She doesn't share the secrets she knows of what of what led up to her mother's confinement at Underhill.

She also doesn't share the fact that she herself has started to hear voices, voices that say disturbing and alarming things. And Alison, just eleven years old, almost the same age as when Carole's mother was taken from her, is coping with both the challenges of impending adolescence, and the confusion of her mother's increasingly strange and distant behavior.

The setting is rural Vermont, and events stretch from before the Great Depression through to the 1970s. It takes us from a time when both gender relations and the understanding and treatment of mental illness will seem shocking to modern readers, to a time when the roots of our contemporary social mores and a more science-based and medically objective treatment of mental illness was developing. This is a moving looking at an imperfect but loving family, and how the shadow of mental illness challenges them. Yoerg is a humane and insightful writer, and tells a difficult but ultimately hopeful tale.

Recommended.

I received a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.