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My Kind of People


My Kind of People

Ichabod Island, the setting of Lisa Duffy’s MY KIND OF PEOPLE, may be 13 miles from mainland Massachusetts, but the problems and issues that plague all of America have certainly made their way to this scenic community.

The book’s main characters are all permanent island residents. Duffy deftly narrates the story from each of their points of view, including 10-year-old Sky, who was adopted as an infant after being abandoned at the island's firehouse; Leo, the island native who is married to Xavier, who loves the city and doesn't want to raise a kid on an island far from his beloved Boston; and Maggie, who had been close to Sky's adoptive parents and often babysat for her, and who is going through marital problems of her own. There is also Joe, the neighbor who built Sky her beloved treehouse and has his own secrets about what was going on in her house before her parents had their deadly accident, leaving Sky with Leo as her guardian. And there is a mysterious narrative from an unnamed woman who returns to the island as she is dying from cancer.

"MY KIND OF PEOPLE is a touching story that carefully and thoughtfully raises questions about race, sexual identity, mental illness, what makes a family, and even how love dies."

The story begins slowly as Duffy builds the characters and the atmosphere in their small neighborhood. While the island appears to be a group of close-knit individuals, in reality the residents are just as snobby and class- (and race-) conscious as those who live anywhere. Agnes, the small-minded school nurse who has been Maggie's best friend for decades, finally clashes with Maggie over her inability to accept that Sky's guardian is black, gay and married.

What's lovely in this adult novel is that Sky has a say in it. Her thoughts and feelings are represented as being as important as any of the grownups, and she has a lot to share with us. We go from thinking she had the best home ever to realizing that, like many families, hers was not perfect.

In fact, on this island "paradise," appearances can be deceiving. Maggie's almost 30-year marriage is an unhappy one. She must learn how to overcome some childhood issues before she can be truly happy and free to decide what kind of future she wants. Will Leo's idyllic marriage to Xavier survive Leo’s desire to live on his childhood island and raise his best friend's daughter? Xavier doesn't think so. Will Sky adjust to living with Leo, or will her estranged grandmother, who just relocated to the island, try to get custody?

Duffy creates real people who we come to care about. We want Leo to be happy, whether it's with or without Xavier in his life. We want Maggie to find true love, and we recognize that it's not going to happen with her husband. But will she realize it? And how can she remain friends with Agnes, who is the opposite of kind, compassionate and generous Maggie? Most importantly, we desperately want Sky to find a family in which she can grow up and thrive.

We also wonder who the mystery woman is. While most readers will figure it out fairly quickly, that doesn't affect the power of the inevitable poignant outcome.

MY KIND OF PEOPLE is a touching story that carefully and thoughtfully raises questions about race, sexual identity, mental illness, what makes a family, and even how love dies. It's the kind of book that stays with you long after the last page is digested because Leo, Maggie, Sky and the other neighbors have become friends, and we want to know what their future brings. It's a fabulous beach read, even though it's not really about the water or the beach. It also would be a wonderful choice for a book club because of the myriad possibilities for an in-depth discussion.

Reviewed by Pamela Kramer on May 15, 2020

My Kind of People
by Lisa Duffy

  • Publication Date: May 12, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • ISBN-10: 1982137150
  • ISBN-13: 9781982137151