We Are Not Like Them by Christine Pride, Jo Piazza
Published by Atria Books
Publication date: October 5, 2021
Genres: Book Clubs, Fiction, Contemporary, Social Issues
I’m a fan of diverse reading. There are so many places I’ve never gone and experiences I haven’t had in real life. Visiting them in the pages of a book helps expand my horizons and opens my mind in ways it wouldn’t be without reading. Sadly, there are issues happening right here in America that I may think I understand, but I truly have no idea. Racism is one of them and We Are Not Like Them is an outstanding novel about a friendship forced to face it head on.
Riley is Black and Jen is White. They have been best friends since they were little girls. Jen spent much of her time with Riley’s family as her mother worked a lot and was not a reliable parent. As adults their paths drifted apart—Jen stayed in Philadelphia, married, and works as a receptionist, Riley got a journalism degree and moved to the South—but Riley’s return to Philly for a job brought them back in touch. So much so that when Jen needs money for a final attempt at IVF Riley pays for it.
All that shatters after Jen’s husband, a cop, shoots and kills an unarmed 14-year-old Black teen. Riley’s personal and professional lives collide. Not simply because her dearest friend’s husband committed murder in a way that’s all too familiar in her world, but also because her job has put her front and center at the coverage so she cannot reveal she’s Jen’s friend. Jen finds herself alone, in her third trimester, reaching out to her dearest friend and unable to understand why Riley can’t understand. A bond that seemed unbreakable becomes fragile as each woman realizes that maybe the strength of their friendship was an illusion.
There’s a lot to absorb in We Are Not Like Them. What could easily turn into a sensationalistic, slugfest of opposing viewpoints is elevated into a deeply nuanced look at one of America’s greatest problems. This is due to the fact that the book has two authors. Christine Pride is Black and Jo Piazza is White. To even attempt to write fiction on such a combustible topic is brave, but to do it as well as these two do is remarkable. Every perspective is represented and not in a facile way that can be shrugged off or pushed back on, but with real thought. It made for tense, uncomfortable, but highly worthwhile reading.
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*I received a free copy of this book from Atria Books in exchange for an honest review.*