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We Love You, Charlie Freeman

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  3,116 ratings  ·  554 reviews

“A terrifically auspicious debut.” —Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“Smart, timely and powerful . . . A rich examination of America’s treatment of race, and the ways we attempt to discuss and confront it today.” —The Huffington Post

The Freeman family--Charles, Laurel, and their da
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published March 8th 2016 by Algonquin Books
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Jessa McCauley Yes. The mom learned it as a coping mechanism and loved it so much she made it a career. Her daughters were taught because of the mother's interest. N…moreYes. The mom learned it as a coping mechanism and loved it so much she made it a career. Her daughters were taught because of the mother's interest. None of the family is deaf.(less)

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Average rating 3.48  · 
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 ·  3,116 ratings  ·  554 reviews

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This debut novel has a very intriguing premise, that of a family chosen to teach sign language to a chimpanzee. Not only were the Freemans tasked with teaching Charlie sign language, they were also responsible for accepting Charlie as a member of their own family. In order to accomplish this undertaking, the Freemans relocate to the Toneybee Institute in Massachusetts from their home in Dorchester. From the teenaged Charlotte, one of the narrators in this story, we learn "In Dorchester, our cons ...more
Jessica Woodbury
Do not be fooled by this warm and fuzzy title. This is an amazing mess of a book. It does not hold your hand and talk sweetly to you while you walk a well-trodden path. It is running out ahead of you through dense jungle and you aren't sure you can keep up, oh and you have no idea where it is you're going.

It's the kind of book where anything could happen at any moment, where there's this feeling of tension that lies under the surface. Not like a thriller where someone suddenly reveals they're a
This is one of those books that improves as you think on it. Kaitlyn Greenidge is a very insightful and clever writer. What throws me is that "We Love You Charlie Freeman" is a very odd book. It defies description and it leaves the reader a little discombobulated over the whole thing. It also happens to be very interesting and thought provoking. Udeni read some of my notes from the book and thought it sounded fascinating. That encouraged me to look a little deeper at the undercurrent (going on i ...more
The Freemans are raising Charlie, a chimpanzee, as part of their family for a Toneybee Institute experiment and teaching him to communicate via sign language. I liked this so much more than (view spoiler). Greenidge’s debut novel, by contrast, is a rich and unsettling story of hu ...more
Jul 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I passed up on this book several times at the library before a cover blurb from Colum McCann swayed me. Thank you Mr. McCann.

I loved this debut novel! Greenidge writes about race, family, sisterhood, love and loneliness with such a fresh voice and within such an engaging and unusual story that I fell in love immediately.

I wish I had better words. Just read it.
Dayle (the literary llama)
Jan 20, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
RATING: ★★☆☆☆ / 2 slightly fractured stars.

REVIEW: I wanted to like this book, I really did. Since I first heard about it prior to it's release, I've been looking forward to reading We Love You, Charlie Freeman. The premise of the book is intriguing and the hype promised a story about communication, race, and history. Unfortunately, what was written was simultaneously too much and not enough, a story stretched thin.

The story of the Freemans begins on their way to the Toneybee Institute in the ea
Mar 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I'll start by saying that I tend to steer clear of books in the library with the African American sticker across the spine. With a handful of exceptions, most tend to revolve around slavery or hood life and neither are subjects I enjoy. However, the cover and title of "We Love You, Charlie Freeman" caught my attention and after reading the first few pages I knew this wasn't the typical African American fiction I was used to.

There's a lot going on here. The theme revolves around race but there's
Mar 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book was downright exciting in the way the author kept throwing curves at us, not taking the plot and characters where I expected them to go. A heart-rending read, but how could an exploration of American racism be anything else? This book worked as both an actual story and a historical allegory. And the first-person rationalizations of one particular character were absolutely chilling. Brava, Kaitlyn Greenidge!
This book was a surprise for me - I went in knowing nothing other than there was a chimpanzee in the story. Yep, that's it. And it's that but so much more ... it's a novel that explores race, family dynamics, identity and so much more. I don't want to discuss it too much because I think I enjoyed it more since I knew nothing about it. Just trust me ... it's good. Definitely worth picking up! ...more
Dec 13, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

I’ve been meaning to read this book since the beginning of this year and I’m so glad I finally got around to it. The Freeman family has been selected by the Tonybee Institute for a unique opportunity. They will adopt a chimpanzee into their family, treat him like a family member and teach him sign language. As you can imagine, each member of the family feels differently about this experience and we follow them as they begin their new life at the Institute.

The premise is certainly wacky
amanda eve
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: galley-brag
I devoured this book in about a day, although the story stayed with me much longer. Solid 4 stars.
"We Love You, Charlie Freeman" is a wonderful first novel. It feels rare -- the contemporary, literary fiction that isn't "brutal" or "searing" or any other violent adjectives. Greenidge's take on race is unique, dancing along the edge of metaphor without tipping over into heavy-handedness. I look forward to reading more of her work.
So, I get the experiment, I get the Freeman family, I get Charlotte's struggle with sexuality, I get what happens to the father and to Callie, I get the race relations, I get the point of Adia, I understand Nymphadora's story line, I understand Charlie's behavior as an ape and as a caged animal and as an experiment and as someone who grew up with people, I understand ALL of this, but for the life of me Laurel Freeman is completely beyond my comprehension.

Other things I'm stumped about:
1) Why do
Carol Brill
Aug 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
African-American teenager Charlotte is not thrilled when her family moves from Boston to rural Massachusetts because “they” are hired to teach sign language to a chimpanzee at the Toneybee Institute. The job is primarily her mother’s but the whole family is engaged to make Charlie part of their family. Slowly, the Institutes disturbing history emerges as the point of view narration and points in time shift between Nymphadora, a black women with disconcerting ties to the institute in the 1920’s, ...more
Jessica Sullivan
This is the kind of book that contains incredible depth and complexity wrapped in a refreshingly readable and accessible story.

The year is 1991 and 14-year-old Charlotte Freeman and her family have been given the opportunity to leave the city and take up residence at the Toneybee Institute, a renowned primate research facility in rural Massachusetts. There, they’ll participate in an ostensibly exciting experiment: they’ll welcome a young chimp into their home and teach him sign language.

But what
Sara Batkie
It pains me that I didn't love this because I really admire Greenidge's ability to meld an ambitious plot with a readable, unfussy prose style, something that's incredibly difficult to pull off. It's a fascinating premise too that manages to touch on animal rights, disability rights, sexuality, language, science, and, of course, race; unfortunately "touch on" is the operative word there. In the end, she's a bit hobbled in the final stretch by attempting to explore all these issues over several t ...more
Mar 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Just when you think you've experienced the breadth of plot possibilities, along comes a book like this one. This is why I love reading. A strange but engrossing novel that pairs the African-American Freeman family with Charlie the chimp in what appears to be a bizarre social experiment. The Freeman family moves into the Toneybee Institute with Charlie the chimp who was abandoned by his mother.

The Toneybee Institute has quite the history, as the founder has been living with chimps on campus in a
May 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
Wow, loved this so much.
Jamie Canaves
Excellent, smart book that reads on many layers, told from the point of view of various characters. On the surface you have a family who accepts the important job from a research institute of moving in with a monkey to not only teach him sign language but to treat him as a member of the family. But it’s a black family being given a monkey, and so starts the many layers of exploring racism in our society.

This is one of those intelligent books that never makes the reader feel like it’s above thei
This was a 4.5 read for me.
It was a powerful and ambitious narrative that reflects the complexity of racism, communication, and religion and scientific experimentation.

More thoughts coming shortly
May 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book turned my stomach. It's so tense it scared me; every revelation is a new horror, and it's really intense. It's also really, really good; as upsetting as it was, it could've been longer, even — it's that well-written: "made me feel sick, wasn't long enough." ...more
Mar 01, 2017 rated it did not like it
I VERY rarely give a low review on a book that I read all the way through. And I really wanted to like this one. But, ultimately, it just fell super flat for me. I was creeped out by part of the narrative and that alone may have tanked the book to at least a 2-star rating. But...then there was the ending. Just...nothing. I felt nothing. Unless you count the relief that the book was finally done. I felt like there was not enough resolution and the characters just stayed stagnant. It was disappoin ...more
Apr 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars rounded up

This book is a whole lot of things and a whole mess of things. This was one of those books that "had me" and then... it ended. And I was not happy about that.

I felt like there was so much left to be explored and the last 20 pages or so was not satisfying enough. I always felt like the author kept the characters at a distance, I never really felt close to any of them. Perhaps that was a narrative choice, but I did not like it. I felt like I was invested in this S*** show and
Feb 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016-books, bioethics
2 ½-stars, i think. for now.

the freeman family - parents, laurel and charles, and daughters, charlotte (14) and callie (9) - accept an offer to live at a research institute, integrating a young male chimpanzee (charlie) into their family with the goal of teaching him communication through the use of sign language. the freemans are an african-american family. all of the employees of the research centre are white, and the town they relocate to is predominantly white. charles is given a job outsid
Kathy LaTorre
May 04, 2017 rated it did not like it
If i could rate this book 0 stars, i would do it twenty times. Let me start by saying my fellow bookclub members and i have read over 50 books in the past 5 years, and each month we give the same courtesy and objectivity to each read, and provide our honest feedback during our group discussions, which varies depending on each member's personality and attachment to the story. Never in the past 5+ years have we all vehemently abhorred one book so strongly across the board like we did this one. The ...more
Jul 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Parts of this book may make the reader feel uncomfortable about racial issues, but that is partially the author's purpose. Racism isn't going to truly improve or change unless people are forced to look at it truthfully with no holds barred. We Love You, Charlie Freeman works toward this goal by forcing the reader to think about how much our attitudes and stereotypes about race have really changed over time under the guise of scientific experimentation. This book may not be an easy one to read, b ...more
May 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Well, that made me incredibly uncomfortable.
Coleen (The Book Ramblings)
We Love You, Charlie Freeman is Kaitlyn Greenidge’s debut novel, originally published by Algonquin Books in March of 2016. A complex novel, Greenidge touches on history, race, family dynamics, science, and identity. Since I read this, I have not stopped thinking about it. A clever, poignant story that was compelling and at times a challenging read. There is always the feeling of tension that lies beneath the surface—how anything can happen at any moment, and you left waiting, just not knowing wh ...more
Elizabeth Kennedy
This novel starts out with an intriguing premise - a family moving into a primate research center to teach a chimpanzee sign language. While my interest was held to the end of the story, I'm not left satisfied. The novel followed several different characters and story lines, each quite promising, but didn't seem to delve deeply enough into any of them. While the author seemed to be trying to weave and link these story lines and characters together into a cohesive whole, they felt disjointed and ...more
Mar 19, 2017 rated it liked it
This is not one of the books I typically read. It held my interest because it was a book club read, but there was a long while that I put this book down. I actually suggested the book, because I heard it was a good read. The writing is good; the vocabulary is rich, yet not overwhelming. The way the sentences and description are intricately weaved throughout makes for good imagery and memorable quotable lines. But this book was rather odd. One thing that this book seems to magnify is the effects ...more
Sonia Allison
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Black Woman vegan communist lesbian truths. Joy!

Thankyou for this testimony, this INCREASE BLACK WOMEN grappling with wounds and uplift with words that heal us towards flying all our nows to a Black radical revolution. This Black Lives Matter novel is perfect and kind and stop everything and read this book right now, necessary. Love
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Kaitlyn Greenidge received her MFA from Hunter College. Greenidge was the recipient of a Hertog Fellowship and the Bernard Cohen Short Story Prize. She was a Bread Loaf scholar, a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace artist-in-residence, and a Johnson State College visiting emerging writer. Her work has appeared in the Believer, the Feminist Wire, At Length, Fortnight Journal, Green Mountain ...more

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