I received this book for free from the publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Those We Thought We Knew by David Joy
Narrator: MacLeod Andrews
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, Penguin Random House Audio on August 1, 2023
Genres: Fiction / Literary
Length: 9 hours 53 minutes
Format: ARC, Audiobook
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From award-winning writer David Joy comes a searing new novel about the cracks that form in a small North Carolina community and the evils that unfurl from its center.
Toya Gardner, a young Black artist from Atlanta, has returned to her ancestral home in the North Carolina mountains to trace her family history and complete her graduate thesis. But when she encounters a still-standing Confederate monument in the heart of town, she sets her sights on something bigger.
Meanwhile, local deputies find a man sleeping in the back of a station wagon and believe him to be nothing more than some slack-jawed drifter. Yet a search of the man’s vehicle reveals that he is a high-ranking member of the Klan, and the uncovering of a notebook filled with local names threatens to turn the mountain on end.
After two horrific crimes split the county apart, every soul must wrestle with deep and unspoken secrets that stretch back for generations. Those We Thought We Knew is an urgent unraveling of the dark underbelly of a community. Richly drawn and bracingly honest, it asks what happens when the people you’ve always known turn out to be monsters, what do you do when everything you ever believed crumbles away?
This was fantastic! I finished this book a couple of days ago and can’t seem to get it out of my mind. David Joy is an exceptional storyteller and I feel that this is a perfect example of his work. If you haven’t read David Joy yet, do yourself a favor and move his books to the top of your tbr! He writes beautifully about critical social issues and does it in a way that really makes you feel something.
The characters in this story came alive on the page and the small town setting felt very authentic. This book made me feel uncomfortable at times because of how poignantly the topic of racism is addressed. At the heart of this story is Toya, a young black woman staying with her grandmother while finishing college. Toya is vocal and speaks out against the racism that has always been a part of the area’s history. She is killed after a protest and the hunt is on to find her killer. In a town where law enforcement often looks the other way when the Klan is involved, it may prove difficult to find justice for Toya.
The mystery in this novel was incredibly well done but it is the frank discussions about race that will stick with me for a very long time. The town sheriff doesn’t believe that there are any racial issues in his small town. The sheriff has known Toya’s grandmother, Tess, for a very long time and considered himself to be good friends with her late husband. When he seeks Tess’s opinion on the racial issues in their North Carolina town, he doesn’t expect the response he gets.
I listened to the audiobook and thought that MacLeod Andrews did a phenomenal job with the story. I believe that the voices he used helped to bring the cast of characters to life. He added just the right amount of emotion to his reading. I found his voice to be very pleasant which only added to my overall enjoyment.
I highly recommend this book to others. I don’t feel like I can write a review that will do this book justice. It’s just that good. David Joy is an incredibly talented author that more people really should be reading. If you take any of my recommendations, make it this one and get your hands on one of David Joy’s books just as soon as you can.
I received a digital review copy of this book from G.P Putnam’s Sons and Penguin Random House Audio.