Told from alternating perspectives, an evocative and riveting story about the lifelong bond between two women, one black and one white, whose friendship is indelibly altered by a tragic event—a powerful and poignant exploration of race in America today and its devastating impact on ordinary lives.
Jen and Riley have been best friends since kindergarten. As adults, they remain as close as sisters, though their lives have taken different directions. Jen married young, and after years of trying, is finally pregnant. Riley pursued her childhood dream of becoming a television journalist and is poised to become one of the first black female anchors of the top news channel in their hometown of Philadelphia.
But when tragedy strikes, the deep bond the two women share is severely tested. Six months pregnant, Jen is in free fall as her family’s future and her friendship with Riley are thrown into uncertainty. Covering a career-making story, Riley wrestles with the implications of what this tragic incident means for her black community, her ambitions, and her relationship with her lifelong friend.
Like Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage and Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things, We Are Not Like Them considers complex questions of race and how they pervade and shape our most intimate spaces in a deeply divided world. But at its heart, it’s a story of enduring friendship—a love that defies the odds even as it faces its most difficult challenges
My thoughts: this is a powerful and thought provoking story, with terrible tragedy at the heart of it. We’ve all seen the rise in police killings of unarmed black men and boys, and the ensuing fallout as questions keep being asked but no real change takes place.
Riley is a black woman, a journalist and all too aware of how these things transpire, she’s at the heart of the story, interviewing the victim’s family. At the same time her beloved grandmother, Gigi, is dying in a hospital bed. Her lifelong friendship with Jenny, who’s white and married to a cop, is greatly strained by events.
Jenny is on the other side of the events, she doesn’t fully understand what the black community is going through or why Riley is so deeply affected. It stops her from being as close to her friend, her surrogate family, as she has been and means she misses out on seeing Gigi in her final days.
This was written with great sensitivity, an awareness of just how difficult these conversations can be to have with people who aren’t as aware or as well informed. Jenny isn’t a villain, she feels for the young man’s mother, but her lived experience means she can’t condemn the situation as wholeheartedly as Riley does. What saves them is learning a new way to communicate. To be more open with each other and to explain things more clearly. I can see this book starting a lot of conversations itself, with people seeing things from differing perspectives, much like the characters do. A timely and moving read.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.