Consuming Kaitlyn Greenidge’s debut novel is like being coaxed into watching a horror movie by a trusted companion. You suspected something might be lurking in the shadows, but you pushed on, certain your dear friend wouldn’t set you up. By the time the anxiety simmering in the pit of your stomach turned into quiet terror, it was too late. You got got.
Set in early ‘90s Massachusetts, “We Love You, Charlie Freeman” tells the story of the Freemans, an African-American family hired to teach Charlie—a chimp—sign language. Upon being chosen, the Freemans leave their black neighborhood in Boston and move to the Tonybee Institute in (mostly white) Courtland County. The eldest of the two Freeman children, Charlotte, is not about that experiment life, and she knows that something is amiss from the jump. She’s not wrong, and it’s in her attempt to shed light that the novel speaks to America’s racial proclivities in a way that eviscerates you with its frankness.
Greenidge hasn’t written “We Love You, Charlie Freeman” to comfort you; she wants to be sure you don’t wimp out and watch through your fingers. A true friend for life.