Rebecca's Reviews > We Love You, Charlie Freeman

We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge
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really liked it
bookshelves: read-via-edelweiss, historical-fiction, languages, science-tech

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 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.
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Reading Progress

March 7, 2016 – Shelved
March 7, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
March 7, 2016 – Shelved as: read-via-edelweiss
March 11, 2016 – Started Reading
March 19, 2016 – Finished Reading
September 17, 2020 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
September 17, 2020 – Shelved as: languages
September 17, 2020 – Shelved as: science-tech

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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message 1: by Rae (new)

Rae Meadows Wonderful review, as always! I've been curious about this book, as I've seen it all over the place, and didn't realize the thematic overlap with Fowler's book. Will add it to the list.


Rebecca Thanks, Rae. Hope you enjoy!


Emily Thank you for these Further reading links. I knew nothing about the author, other than her gender (assumed from her first name) before reading her short bio at the end of the book. Off to learn more!


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