Book Jacket Synopsis: “The Freeman family – Charles, Laurel, and their daughters, teenage Charlotte and nine-year-old Callie – have been invited to the Toneybee Institute in rural Massachusetts 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 for the experiment because they know sign language; they are supposed to teach it to Charlie and welcome him as a member of their family. Isolated in their new, nearly all-white community not just by their race, but by their strange living situation, the Freemans come undone. And when Charlotte discovers the truth about the Institute’s history of questionable studies, the secrets of the past begin to invade the present. The power of this novel resides in Kaitlyn 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.”
Review: What a book! We Love You, Charlie Freeman was a remarkable debut novel from Kaitlyn Greenidge. From the first chapter onward, I felt a sense of foreboding, knowing that the Freeman family/Charlie experiment was going to implode but not knowing how or why until the very end. Readers may be disappointed by the fact that the novel never truly delivers on its “chimp learning sign language and living with a family” premise; I was somewhat disappointed, hence the four star rating. But Greenidge’s spectacular writing and character development kept me engaged, despite the rather minor (albeit symbolic) role Charlie plays. I didn’t enjoy the chapters narrated by Ellen Jericho/Nymphadora (detailing the Toneybee Institute’s questionable past) as much as those narrated by Charlotte, but both narrators had enthralling voices.
“And who would ever want to think of themselves as not really water but actually a trick of the desert?”
The complicated relationship between Charlotte and Callie could have been explored more, but I really liked the windows into Callie’s mind that Greenidge occasionally provided, as Callie tried to find acceptance and love in an increasingly bizarre situation.
“Too generous, too sweet, so openhearted and earnest it stung.”
In the end, We Love You, Charlie Freeman wasn’t perfect, but it was extremely unique and filled with interesting characters. Kaitlyn Greenidge is definitely an author to watch out for.