The women start to grow apart when Daniella joins an organized effort to register black voters in Mississippi, leaving behind Eve, whose application was rejected. Eve feels further betrayed when Daniella becomes engaged to a moderate Republican WASP, who doesn’t support the civil rights movement. To prove to herself and Daniella how far she’s willing to go to fight the world’s injustices, Eve takes up with Warren St. Clair, a “brilliant but pretty wild” man who eschews conformity. When Warren pulls Eve deep into a radical collective that organizes against the Vietnam war, her friendship with Daniella grows fraught.
By contrasting the lifestyles of Eve’s family — a “small, intimate world” centered on their 12-acre Buckhead estate, the Piedmont Driving Club and All Saints’ Episcopal Church — with the black woman who irons their clothes, fixes their dinner and practically raises their children, the author captures the complexities of Atlanta’s history in a riveting way reminiscent of Tom Wolfe’s 1998 novel “A Man in Full.”
White, an Atlanta native, creates a resounding sense of place and time with seamless references to local cultural artifacts and institutions. Beloved establishments such as A Cappella Books, Manuel’s Tavern and the Majestic Diner are name-dropped as touchstones alongside fiction-meets-fact references to events such as the Orly plane crash in France that killed more than 100 Atlanta arts patrons in 1962.
The author’s intimacy with Atlanta shines when Eve comes back home in 1970 to help fight racism at ground zero, in the South. The collective chooses Atlanta in the hopes of blending in with the city’s counterculture population of peaceful protesters. Living in a shabby house on Euclid Avenue, they forego material comforts to protest imperialism. As part of their resistance, Warren submits a manifesto to the underground publication The Great Speckled Bird that proclaims “revolution was not going to come without bloodshed in the streets.”
Unexpected events, including a mysterious death, eventually send Eve running back to the comfortable lifestyle she once knew and her friendship with Daniella, who has continued to break social barriers in her own way.
For the reader, watching Eve’s dramatic transformation from the bubbly girl who brought a fur coat to college her freshman year into a hardcore rebel who looks the other way while her associates build bombs is mesmerizing. And witnessing her return to “the straight life” as a responsible mother whose activism is confined to throwing money at charities, is equally enchanting.
When a key figure from Eve’s past reappears and threatens to disgrace her family’s standing in the community, Daniella and Eve’s daughters, who are influenced by their mothers’ dynamic, have to navigate the unintended repercussions of Eve’s long-ago actions.
For Daniella and Eve, who have grown as far apart from each other philosophically as Buckhead is from College Park — both geographically and figuratively — the disruption begs the question of whether they can make it through yet another upheaval in their friendship.
Susan Rebecca White. "We Are All Good People Here" book launch presented by A Cappella Books. 6 p.m. Aug. 10. $27, includes signed copy of the book. The Carter Center, 453 John Lewis Freedom Parkway, Atlanta. 404-681-5128, www.acappellabooks.com
‘We Are All Good People Here’
by Susan Rebecca White
Simon & Schuster
304 pages, $27