“Part of our friendship, of any relationship really, is the tacit agreement to allow a generous latitude for flaws and grievances.” These are the words of Riley Wilson, speaking about her lifelong bond with her best friend, Jenny Murphy. But while this agreement has worked for them in the past, it won’t anymore.
In We Are Not Like Them, written by co-authors Christine Pride and Jo Piazza, we meet Riley and Jenny as their friendship is tested as never before: Riley is a Black journalist covering the recent murder of a Black teenage boy by a white police officer, who turns out to be Jenny’s husband, Kevin.
In chapters that alternate between Riley’s and Jenny’s points of view, we begin to understand each woman’s perspective on events. Through Riley, we see how traumatizing it is for a Black journalist to cover police-involved killings, and we see her unease in broadcasting other people’s trauma in order to further her career. Through Jenny, we understand the private fears of a police officer’s spouse and the relentless pressure on cops and their families to “back the blue,” no matter what.
While We Are Not Like Them is fundamentally about the loyalties and betrayals among their communities—and each other—Riley and Jenny are not caricatures. Pride, a Black writer, editor and publishing veteran, and Piazza, a white journalist and podcast host, have written these women as complex, layered people who do their best to navigate infertility, shame, absent maternal figures and the generational trauma wrought by racist violence.
Hopelessness is certainly a theme in the novel, especially in the epilogue that centers on Tamara, the murdered boy’s grieving mother. But We Are Not Like Them is ultimately about the inherently hopeful act of having grace when the people we love make mistakes—even terrible ones. This is an excellent book club selection or a starting point for interracial friend groups or families to talk candidly about race.