Reviews

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Bynum's second novel provides a narrative voice as unique and engaging as that in her award-winning debut, Madeleine Is Sleeping (2004). Here we meet a twentysomething middle-school teacher full of both hope and insecurity on the brink of confident adulthood an age Bynum renders as poignant as that of her students. Rather than focus on the major events of Ms. Hempel's current life, including a broken engagement and the death of her father, Bynum instead uses these as a net to cradle smaller, more telling moments a troublemaker buried in sand on class beach day, a magic routine at the talent show, dancing with colleagues at happy hour. Bynum dares to put much stock in these small moments and in the dreamy perspective of her heroine, and the result is charming without being quirky. This tightly composed novel favors character over a traditional narrative, with one particularly wonderful chapter looking back on a teenage Ms. Hempel, locked in her room, listening to pirate radio, and having aimless conversations with prank callers. The attention to detail is spectacular.--Tully, Annie Copyright 2008 Booklist


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

So who's Ms. Hempel? A brand-new teacher, just engaged and struggling with her father's death, who's very surprised by what goes on at school. A follow-up to Bynum's debut, Madeleine Is Sleeping, a National Book Award finalist. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Among the most popular fiction of the mid-1960s was Bel Kaufman's Up the Down Staircase, the story of an idealistic public school teacher. Four decades later, National Book Award finalist Bynum has produced a worthy version for our times. Departing from the much-discussed experimental prose of her first novel, Madeleine Is Sleeping, the author here uses deceptively simple language to explore the sometimes amazing world of middle school in eight engaging linked narratives. Recently minted (and not especially idealistic) educator Beatrice Hempel struggles with insecurities at home and work while discovering in her classroom moments of wonder, grace, and sheer goofiness. Like Tobias Wolff--whose memoir This Boy's Life plays a major role in Ms. Hempel's teaching--Bynum writes with concise, careful phrasing and a clarity that illuminates the depths to be found even in the most quotidian existence. Recommended for all fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/08.]--Starr E. Smith, Fairfax Cty. P.L., VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.