★ ★ ★ ★
We Love You, Charlie Freeman is Kaitlyn Greenidge’s debut novel, originally published by Algonquin Books in March of 2016. A complex novel, Greenidge touches on history, race, family dynamics, science, and identity. Since I read this, I have not stopped thinking about it. A clever, poignant story that was compelling and at times a challenging read. There is always the feeling of tension that lies beneath the surface—how anything can happen at any moment, and you left waiting, just not knowing when all will break. Charlotte is a refreshing character; a sharp, witty voice in the midst of it all, trying to make sense of the world she is growing up in. Told through multiple point-of-views and timelines, this was the only flaw I had with the book— while I am not a fan of the switching back and forth, I did find it well-done and in a way, created the atmosphere and added to the story-telling.
Truthfully, I went into this story only knowing the synopsis, and afterward, I can say that I haven’t read anything quite like this. It’s full of risks and truth, so brilliantly written. It’s the first book I’ve read that makes me want to analyze, read it over, and have a conversation about the premise and topics. Kaitlyn Greenidge is a vibrant, powerful voice—We Love You, Charlie Freeman was an outstanding introduction to Greenidge’s work, and I can only hope to read more soon.
The Freeman family–Charles, Laurel, and their daughters, teenage Charlotte and nine-year-old Callie–have been invited to the Toneybee Institute to participate in a research experiment. They will live in an apartment on campus with Charlie, a young chimp abandoned by his mother. The Freemans were selected because they know sign language; they are supposed to teach it to Charlie and welcome him as a member of their family. But when Charlotte discovers the truth about the institute’s history of questionable studies, the secrets of the past invade the present in devious ways.
The power of this shattering novel resides in Greenidge’s undeniable storytelling talents. What appears to be a story of mothers and daughters, of sisterhood put to the test, of adolescent love and grown-up misconduct, and of history’s long reach, becomes a provocative and compelling exploration of America’s failure to find a language to talk about race.
Paperback, 342 pages
Published January 31st 2017 by Algonquin Books
I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.