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We Love You, Charlie Freeman

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The Freeman family--Charles, Laurel, and their daughters, teenage Charlotte and nine-year-old Callie--have been invited to the Toneybee Institute 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 because they know sign language; they are supposed to teach it to Charlie and welcome him as a member of their family. But when Charlotte discovers the truth about the institute’s history of questionable studies, the secrets of the past invade the present in devious ways.  

The power of this shattering novel resides in 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.

“A magnificently textured, vital, visceral feat of storytelling . . . [by] a sharp, poignant, extraordinary new voice of American literature.”

336 pages, Hardcover

First published April 5, 2016

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About the author

Kaitlyn Greenidge

7 books651 followers
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 Mountains Review, Afrobeat Journal, the Tottenville Review, and American Short Fiction. Originally from Boston, she now lives in Brooklyn. Her debut novel, We Love You, Charlie Freeman was published by Algonquin Books in March 2016.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 640 reviews
Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,586 reviews1,984 followers
March 9, 2016
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 about to blow up a building. No, this tension is knowing that so many things are wrong, so many things are close to breaking, that at any moment everything could fall apart and when that happens you don't know what it will look like.

I love the messiness of it, I love the craziness of Charlotte and Callie's stories. There is no flinching or holding back. This book just goes for it. It takes risks, it doesn't follow a formula, it doesn't feel like anything else you've read. It's unusual that after a book is over I want to ask its author a hundred questions, but in this case I really do. It got my brain moving, it got me off kilter, and that so rarely happens.
Profile Image for Candi.
608 reviews4,590 followers
September 8, 2016
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 constant signing, our bookish ways and bans from fast-food restaurants and booty music, assured that me and Callie were unpopular on the block." Mother Laurel tells the girls that this may be their opportunity to make history. Charlotte is hoping to establish an identity, not as the unpopular girl any longer, but one that is perhaps accepted because of her differences in a new school – one of these being that she is one of the only black students amongst a crowd of nearly all white children in this more rural community. Her sister Callie just hopes to get some attention and love. Their father Charles seemed as if he was just along for the ride, going along with Laurel's whim to be a part of this research experiment with Charlie. Thus begins their “adventure” which in fact turns out to rattle the family dynamics rather than unify their little group.

Alternating with this early 1990’s plot line of the Freeman family, this novel also takes us even farther back in time to the 1920s to the story of Nymphadora and her connection with the early research at the Toneybee Institute. We are also introduced to one of the institute’s employees, a slick anthropologist named Dr. Gardner. He develops a relationship with Nymphadora in the name of science. Much of what happens here is uncomfortable and disturbing. Thirty-six year old Nymphadora aches for acceptance, friendship and love. Having lost her parents, she is an easy target. "I missed my one true friend, my mother. She and I were close in a way I don’t think many other mothers and daughters were. I slept beside her every night of my childhood: so near to her back, I could probably sketch the constellation of moles and freckles on her skin there… I miss her, with a never-ending ache that I did not think was possible, that crowds out any other feeling and certainly all my reason, and any good sense."

A connection between the two timelines is eventually established and it definitely held my interest. There were many issues explored here including race, loneliness, acceptance, language, sexual identity, and human and animal research rights. I think it was a very ambitious undertaking to examine so much in one novel. It was perhaps a bit too much. Character development suffered a bit with the attempt to delve into so many complex topics. The last portion of the book felt less cohesive, the plot rushed through to the end. I hoped to learn more about Charlie and his progress with learning sign language, but he was often left aside and instead used as a means for other characters to express both their goals and their insecurities. I grew to truly dislike Laurel and seriously doubted her adequacy as a mother. For the most part I did like the way Nymphadora’s story was wrapped up, although there were some questions there as well. I certainly admired the crisp and matter of fact style to the writing and think that Kaitlyn Greenidge is off to a great start. With a little bit of fine tuning the next time around, I would not hesitate to pick up her next book. This one was certainly a good read overall.
Profile Image for Monica.
582 reviews610 followers
March 11, 2017
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 in my head) of the utterly enthralling and almost obsessive nature of the book. Truly a page turner just to figure out the link of these oddball vignettes that Greenidge has been laying down.

The story is told through multiple points of view and timelines, though the main character is definitely a teenaged Charlotte. Ostensibly the story is about the bigotry and racism inherent in (almost) all white Courtland County, the neighboring Negro-populated town of Spring City and the dubious behavioral experiments at the Toneybee Institute. But it only takes a few chapters before one gets the impression that this book is not about those things at all. One of the most interesting aspects of this book is how it takes such volatile subjects and turns them into a backdrop for a story that really is more universal and ubiquitous. Charlie Freeman is a story about the most debilitating of human (and apparently simian) frailties: loneliness. The views are from characters with great wealth (an heiress), to a bad marriage that seems stable from the outside, to the loneliness that occurs between sisters when the age difference starts to matter, to the isolation that happens when people are trying to keep up airs of prosperity and religious precepts, to the loneliness of scientists devoted to their craft and the social sacrifices they make, to an orphaned chimpanzee that has been rejected by his kind. All of the characters down to the chimpanzee are ostracized, outcast, isolated and alone in some way. The story revolves around the many different ways in which the characters try to cope with their isolation. The story touches on all sorts of taboos from hints of bestiality, and some obvious tilts at emotional and mental instability. The characters are both coping with their own afflictions and trying (in vain) to help others cope. In the midst of this is Charlotte's blossoming sexuality through the chaos and the reader can't help but wonder about the effects. The results are disastrous for almost all of the characters.

When I finished this book, my first thought was WTF did I just read!? In the end, I think this was of the strangest books I've read in years. It is also one of the most interesting and thought provoking. One week later and I'm actually loving the book. It had very interesting things to say about human beings in all their incarnations. Also, Greenidge uses language in new and interesting ways. For example:
We drove past the clapboard double-deckers of our block, the high stoops overlaid with deciduous piles of supermarket circulars and candy bar wrappers and petrified, heat-stiffened leaves.
I don't think I've ever seen the word deciduous used in reference to anything except trees, but the way she used it was very artful. In the end, what kept this from a 5 star book for me was that I'm not sure she accomplished what she set out to do. Perhaps the misunderstanding was mine, the book is billed as satire, however I didn't read searing commentary about anything but human frailty which (IMO) by its very nature undermines the idea of satire. But by all means, I highly recommend this book. It is an excellent debut novel. I'm definitely looking forward to more from this author.

Almost 4.5 Stars

Edited to Add: After reading both this book and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves I've come to the conclusion that no matter what your family dysfunction is; chimpanzees are not the answer...
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,551 reviews2,535 followers
September 17, 2020
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 . Greenidge’s debut novel, by contrast, is a rich and unsettling story of human–human interactions, even more so than human–animal interactions.

The main action is set near Boston in 1990, when primary narrator Charlotte is a 14-year-old trying to come to grips with being one of only two black students in her new high school. Her mother, Laurel, and little sister Callie, nine, are particularly enamored with Charlie but show it in socially unacceptable ways. Flashbacks to the late 1920s bring an uncomfortable racial subtext to the surface, suggesting that the Toneybee has been involved in dodgy anthropological research over the decades. I loved the narrator of these sections, Nymphadora (“I do not wish my own skin was white. What I envy is not their skin but their insouciance”), and the Thanksgiving dinner sequence at the Toneybee is simply fantastic. I was a tiny bit disappointed with how things end, but I still think this is a great first novel and I will follow Greenidge’s career with interest.

Further reading: There’s a fantastic interview with the author at Rumpus and another at Foreword; also see this Kirkus feature and her BuzzFeed article about her father’s death.
Profile Image for Dayle (the literary llama).
1,053 reviews166 followers
July 4, 2016
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 early 1990s. It's clear that this isn't a happy move for the entire family, specifically who is supposed to be our main narrator, Charlotte, the eldest daughter. It's a promising start, and soon we are traveling back in time to get to know the mom, Laurel, and how the family became proficient in sign language. Then even farther back to Nymphadora, in 1929, to show us the times and town surrounding the beginning of the Institute. There is a mysterious air traveling through the different times and characters, an expectation of more and a place where all the threads converge. This is where the story starts to fracture.

Charlie Freeman, our resident chimpanzee, and the teaching of sign language, quickly falls by the wayside to make room for a myriad of other themes. We meet more new characters, each introduced with an opinion or agenda that is never fully formed. The story seems to skip as if entire chapters were cut out. I was never quite sure what the author was trying to convey. She touched on a number of different points and explored them only briefly, there wasn't enough time or depth spent on them. There was too much to work with and not enough words to finish the book.

My most problematic point was actually the mother, Laurel. It's easy to understand her background and motives for moving her family to the Institute to participate in this experiment, but that is where the understanding ends. Her every action once she is with Charlie is baffling. There is no explanation or clue to lead the reader to a deeper comprehension of her character, and because of that the story itself starts to fold in on itself.

Putting all that aside, the book is actually well-written. The words flowed extremely well and there were times when I would lose myself in the pages. The author shows an amazing amount of promise. I just think that overall, the story wasn't well explored. Still, I will be on the lookout for another Kaitlyn Greenidge novel, because I think that there are better things to come.
Profile Image for Alena.
848 reviews219 followers
July 14, 2016
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.
Profile Image for SJ.
40 reviews
March 29, 2016
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 so much more. Tension -racial - sexual - familial - class. Everyone in this book is vying for attention but only one seems to get it and once he gets it, in the end, he still isn't satisfied. So many issues throughout but really it's just a story about a family that starts off fairly normal and becomes dysfunctional in an attempt to make history. It can and will make you uncomfortable but race, sex, and family secrets usually do. Do yourself a favor ... read this and open your mind to what's going on in the world just a little more.
Profile Image for Jan.
1,045 reviews29 followers
April 21, 2016
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!
Profile Image for Amy.
1,585 reviews132 followers
June 13, 2016
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!
Profile Image for Nnenna | scsreads.
560 reviews423 followers
August 13, 2020
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 and different, which is what drew me in initially. The author uses this premise to explore race. The Freeman family is black and hearing that they’ve been selected to participate in an ‘experiment’ automatically raises some flags, as we know that horrible things have been done to black people in the name of science. There’s a fascinating overlap between race and language in this novel as well. Greenidge writes about the way that race can affect the way that your words are interpreted, and how language can be racially coded. There is language both spoken and unspoken, since the family communicates orally and with sign language. In one anecdote, we learn that the mother of the family stopped speaking for a period of time when she was younger. When she spoke, her words could be twisted or misinterpreted, so instead, she communicated with handwritten notes.

The novel is also about growing up, and how lonely and confusing it can be. Compound that with the fact that they’re black and newcomers, and you can understand why Charlotte, the teenager in this family, feels so isolated. It’s human nature to want to be seen, known, and loved, and Charlotte tries to navigate those feelings throughout the book.

I thought this was a well-written, insightful debut novel. The book is written from various perspectives, including members of the Freeman family, and a character in the past. Race is one of the main themes, but the author also discusses class, family relationships, sexuality, and more. I was reading this book right before and after the election and it felt really timely. I identified with the “otherness” that the characters were experiencing because I was feeling it too. I found this to be a very compelling read and I think that if the premise interests you, you should definitely give it a try.
Profile Image for amanda eve.
466 reviews12 followers
January 20, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Becca.
250 reviews322 followers
May 22, 2016
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 does this family know sign language? Was it explained somewhere in the middle of the book and I have forgotten it? No one is deaf, nor do they know anyone who is deaf, nor do the parents use sign language in their jobs, nor are they into any other kind of linguistics. The mom just taught everyone for kicks? That would be cool if there had been a point, like, say she knew she was going to the Institute or she wanted them to work with the deaf community. But....??

2) Laurel and Charlie's bond - I would love to know the psychology behind it. I can guess at it to a certain degree, but seriously, I expected more of a dramatic resolution or explanation with this story line.

The ending was this odd mixture of satisfying and unsatisfying. I am not sure I can put into words what I mean exactly. It's quite hard to review this book without spoilers. There is so much I want to comment on that would take away from the reading experience.

Overall, I think it was a mostly successful attempt at blending a lot of impactful experiences and sociology and social psychology into a story about a family, an ape, and an experiment.
Profile Image for Carol Brill.
Author 3 books154 followers
August 5, 2016
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, and the present voice of Charlotte, and occasionally her father and younger sister, Callie. The voices are haunting, full of aching loneliness and longing for love and acceptance. The story is very well-crafted to reveal the institute’s history and the current behavior of Charlotte’s family skillfully to build disturbing tension and heartbreak. Even on the surface, there’s a lot of story about coming-of-age and family discord, and then there are layers of metaphor about boundaries in relationships, failed communication and racial disconnect.
Profile Image for Jessica Sullivan.
518 reviews422 followers
June 5, 2016
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 the Freeman’s don’t know is that the Toneybee Institute has a deeply disturbing history of experiments on members of the local black community in the 1930s.

This is an uncomfortable book to read: it quickly gives rise to a pit in your stomach that doesn’t ever really go away. But it’s an important book for that very reason. In today’s world, there are so many people who attempt to dismiss racism as a thing of the past, failing to acknowledge that historically speaking, we’re actually not far removed from horrible atrocities — and not only that, but the realities of institutional and internalized racism persist.

In her poignant story, Greenidge forces readers to confront powerful truths about prejudice, from the terrible legacy of racism to the challenges faced by a middle-class black American family in the 1990s.

There are no easy answers or tidy resolutions to be found in this book. Instead, Greenidge poses tough questions about race, animal captivity and family dynamics that may not even be answerable in the first place. And yet it’s not all grim. Charlotte is vibrant voice of witty humor and teenage rebellion as she tries to make sense of it all and find her place in the world.
Profile Image for Andre.
510 reviews138 followers
June 3, 2016
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 an attempt to prove they're capable of acquiring language for 50 years. So as the chapters loosely alternate between the present 90's and the 20's and 30's,plus with the Institute being located in an all white enclave with a nearby black community, the opportunities to explore race and class are plentiful.

Kaitlyn Greenidge makes the most of these opportunities with humor, clarity and quick pacing that never fails to delight. I will be eagerly awaiting her next novel.
Profile Image for Jamie Canaves.
841 reviews253 followers
March 2, 2016
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 their head or inaccessible while having an engrossing story and wonderful characters.
Profile Image for Beverly.
1,617 reviews339 followers
March 28, 2016
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
Profile Image for Meave.
789 reviews55 followers
May 25, 2016
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."
Profile Image for Elle.
1,000 reviews82 followers
March 1, 2017
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 disappointing.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
72 reviews20 followers
May 2, 2017
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 I wanted the characters to at least let me fully in.

I agree with another reviewer that this book could have benefitted from another hundred or two pages. There was just so much the reader was left with. I am not saying the ending had to be tidy, but the novel built and built and built and finally, everything hit the fan. I felt like I had watched the disaster unfold, and I "deserved" (I know that is ridiculous) to see what exactly came of it.

Having said that, I really still enjoyed the book. The premise, the historical tie-ins, the way the author managed to input humor in a very serious situation. The story was well-told. I just want to know more.
Profile Image for JenniferD.
1,006 reviews360 followers
May 7, 2016
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 outside of the centre, teaching at the local high school (which charlotte attends), while laurel becomes the primary caregiver and teacher to charlie. though none of the freemans are deaf, they are fluent in ASL - language charlotte learned as a younger child as she grew to distrust spoken language, and spent time refusing to speak. woven into the alternating perspectives of the freemans' stories in 1990 is the voice of a woman in 1929 who served as one of the first 'specimens' for the institute's first director. the institute's unethical and racist studies come to light in both timeframes.

so there is a lot going on in this debut novel. greenidge covers some big issues: racism, language and communication, history, sexuality, family dynamics, science and religion. in so many ways this is a very timely book and it was a mostly interesting read. i liked greenidge's style very much and was pretty well all in for the story until i hit the open letter from julia toneybee-leroy, founder of the toneybee institute. this open letter totally bisected the story for me and nearly lost me. i understand its purpose, and the voice was certainly distinct... but it completely took away from the flow of the reading for me. i also felt for all the importance language and communication were given in the book they hung as loose threads by the end (unlike, say, Embassytown). i found myself thinking a lot about the ending of The Grapes of Wrath while reading WLYCF. psychologically, morally and socially, there is a lot to think about and unpack in we love you charlie freeman.

i've become a fan of greenidge's in 2016 - google her to read some of the wonderful essays she's had published online this year! she is a very thoughtful, smart, and sensitive writer. i look forward to her next novel and so wish i loved WLYCF more. though, perhaps it will stick with me - i am actually hoping that will happen, as it does sometimes with reads: the more distance from the book, the better it gets. maybe you've had that happen in your own reading too?

Profile Image for Kathy LaTorre.
3 reviews
May 4, 2017
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 storyline was jumbled to the point that the thin, connecting fibers (aka the point) were completely lost, and you turn the pages hoping something will click but it never does. We never get to really meet any of the characters or find out what makes them tick. This book was a complete waste of time, do not bother picking it up.
Profile Image for Lynne.
600 reviews17 followers
August 14, 2016
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, but it's certainly an important one to read and discuss.
Profile Image for Bailey.
434 reviews116 followers
February 17, 2017
A little disjointed at times (possibly things I just didn't get), but a really stellar debut novel and a worthy contender in the 2017 ToB. I'm glad it was picked for the tournament bc not sure I would have picked it up otherwise. Really enjoyed reading this.
Profile Image for Coleen (The Book Ramblings).
205 reviews58 followers
August 8, 2017
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 when all will break. Charlotte is a refreshing character; a sharp, witty voice in the midst of it all, trying to make sense of the world she is growing up in. Told through multiple point-of-views and timelines, this was the only flaw I had with the book— while I am not a fan of the switching back and forth, I did find it well-done and in a way, created the atmosphere and added to the story-telling.

Truthfully, I went into this story only knowing the synopsis, and afterward, I can say that I haven’t read anything quite like this. It’s full of risks and truth, so brilliantly written. It’s the first book I’ve read that makes me want to analyze, read it over, and have a conversation about the premise and topics. Kaitlyn Greenidge is a vibrant, powerful voice—We Love You, Charlie Freeman was an outstanding introduction into Greenidge's work, and I can only hope to read more soon.

I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Elizabeth Kennedy.
498 reviews18 followers
March 9, 2017
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 jumbled instead. Often the motivations of the characters felt to obscure and there were a few too many unanswered questions for my taste.
Profile Image for Ibyl.
66 reviews13 followers
March 20, 2017
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 of loneliness and the silent screams of the outcasts. How far will one go to be loved and to fit in? Multiple characters in this novel struggle with wanting to belong and we see that no matter how 'pitiful' they behave or how they contort themselves to fit in they still find themselves alone even in the mist of people. I do agree there is more to this book. I even agree that the research going on at the institute shares a bigger message. I just need more time to process this book. I may update my review then.
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191 reviews70 followers
August 19, 2018
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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