I was really drawn to the character Beatrice Hempel; while I don't necessarily agree with her, I found her strong perspective on the world around her very stimulating. The whole book was really like an opportunity to get inside someone else's head for a few days and really immerse oneself in that other person's thoughts. The writing, too, is exquisite, with a plethora of extremely well-turned phrases. Perhaps my favorite parts of the book, however, were the glimpses Ms. Hempel gives of her students through her own eyes--their quirks, their potential, and their burdens alike, all remarkable and unique. I'd suggest this book to anyone who enjoys short stories or realistic fiction about teachers.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Book #22: Ms. Hempel Chronicles
Ms. Hempel Chronicles was written by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, a recent National Book Award finalist and a new master of the short story. Ms. Hempel Chronicles fits neatly into that oeuvre: all of the chapters in the book could be (and many have been) stand-alone short stories, all featuring the enigmatically mediocre Ms. Hempel, seventh grade teacher. Each chapter offers Ms. Hempel's musings on a particular topic or event that she is confronting: a school trip to the beach, a school talent show, visiting her childhood home. And Ms. Hempel always has interesting observations of and insights on these mundane goings-on, making the book a joy to read at a leisurely pace.