People Like Them by Samira Sedira, translated by Lara Vergnaud
First Line: There’s no cemetery in Carmac.
Summary: The story is told from the perspective of Anna, who lives with her husband and children in the quaint Alpine village of Carmac. Life seems to follow a comfortable pattern for those who live there. Everyone lovingly tolerates the two old men who spend their days at the pub, they know the bartender and his past relationships, and they all celebrate together at the wedding of a young couple in town. This is a close-knit community unused to interlopers, aside from the mild annoyance of seasonal tourists. But of course, that all changes once a new family begins building a house next door to Anna and her husband. The Langloises seem to have wealth. Their house is large and they drive expensive cars. Bakary, the husband and father of the family, is black. This is all in contrast to the other villagers. But despite their differences, Anna’s husband becomes close to Bakary and Anna even works as the Langloises part-time cleaner. However, it isn’t long before tensions build to a shocking end.
My Thoughts: This is a small book to begin with, but it is also a page-turner. I finished it in one night. The writing is lovely, and it’s the description of the later hours of an outdoor wedding that might be my favorite part of the whole book:
“I didn’t know where you were, but I wasn’t worried. I imagined you were chatting under a lime tree or along the river, amid a cacophony of frogs… I raised my head toward the sky; it was pure, without complication. The moment struck me as so delectable that I closed my eyes. I went inside myself with as much delight as if I was slipping into a warm bath. I reached a primitive state of serenity, rocked by the music and the whispers around the table.”
If you haven’t felt this way in the wee hours of a summer night at some point in your life, are you really even human? But the other thing the author does so well is demonstrate how subtle racism can be–how we might ignore a questionable comment from a community member, assuming they meant no harm, or thinking perhaps we misheard them, or in the interest of avoiding conflict—and she does so with a light touch, without judgment. She merely shows us where prejudice can hide, how everyday it can be, and how tragic the consequences might be.
FYI: This book was based on real events that occurred in France in 2003, which I didn’t even realize when I first read it!