Mental Health and Family Relationships Come Together in Yoerg’s ‘All the Best People’

At BookTrib, we are constantly searching for the best ways to connect readers with writers, opening their eyes and worlds to fresh ideas! This is how we came across a wonderful group known as the Tall Poppies, who are not only avid readers, but extremely talented writers as well! This week, Katie Pryal reviews Sonja Yoerg’s ‘All the Best People.’

The heart of Sonja Yoerg’s All the Best People is Carole LaPorte, one of the book’s narrators, a mother of three and wife to Walt, the owner of an auto shop in small-town 1970s Vermont. Carole’s world starts to fall apart when she begins to question whether she might be like her mother, Solange, who has been locked in Underhill, the nearby mental health facility, ever since Carole was ten years old.

Carole’s daughter Alison isn’t much older than Carole was when Solange was sent away. She struggles to find friends to relate to and suffers as her mother grows more and more withdrawn. Carole’s much-younger sister Janine struggles as well: a widow in her early thirties, she’s had to return to work as a secretary, and she’s miserable in her newly low social station. She starts planning ways to regain her status.

As Carole’s crisis grows, and Janine’s poor decisions worsen, the dark history of the LaPorte family seems destined to repeat itself. Yet, small heroics from unexpected places might just be enough to avert tragedy.

Told from multigenerational, rotating points-of-view, and set deeply in the heart and history of Vermont—including a famous historical legal case for any law nerds out there—All the Best People handles many sensitive issues with aplomb: classism, mental illness, eugenics, and more. For anyone who knows me, I’m both a lawyer and a mental health expert, and I give this book, one that covers both topics, my strong endorsement. It is rare to find a book about mental illness that gives the disabled person center stage, that is, a voice, a chance to speak for herself. And here, Yoerg does just that, with both grace and beauty.

An excellent read for those who enjoy history, place, and strong characters – and stories about family.

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 studied learning in blue jays, kangaroo rats and spotted hyenas, among other species. Her non-fiction book about animal intelligence, Clever as a Fox, was published in 2001. She has published three novels: House Broken, The Middle of Somewhere, and All the Best People.

While her two daughters were young, Sonja taught fine arts, computer skills and science in their schools in California. Now that they are in college, she writes full-time. She currently lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her husband. Together they run, garden, remodel houses, cook, eat, drink wine, then run some more.

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Katie Pryal
Katie is a novelist, freelance journalist, and erstwhile law professor in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She is the author of the Hollywood Lights Series, which includes ENTANGLEMENT, LOVE AND ENTROPY, CHASING CHAOS, and HOW TO STAY, all from Blue Crow Books. With Raven Books, she is the author of LIFE OF THE MIND INTERRUPTED: Essays on Mental Health and Disability in Higher Education (2017). As a journalist, Katie contributes to QUARTZ, THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION, THE (late, lamented) TOAST, DAME MAGAZINE and other national venues. She earned her master’s degree in creative writing from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins, where she attended on a fellowship. Katie has published many books on writing, including HOW WRITING WORKS with Oxford University Press.