Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ms. Hempel Chronicles

Bynum, Sarah Shun-Lien. Ms. Hempel Chronicles. New York: Harcourt, 2008.

Submitted by R. Stuhr

This short novel is almost like a series of short stories, all dealing with a different event or time in Ms. Hempel's life. Each chapter reveals some new detail of her life. Ms. Hempel is a young (under 30) middle school teacher who is figuring out teaching, her students, and herself. All of it is confusing for her, her ambitions, her lack of ambitions, her responses to her students, her relationships with friends and family. In some ways the book is frustrating, because, since the the main character lacks much insight into herself, so do we, the readers. On the other hand, Bynum's narrative style is unusual and trying to absorb the sudden revelations gives the reader the opportunity to work just a little harder (in a gratifying way). Ms. Hempel doesn't have everything figured out, she has not developed deep insights, she is muddling her way through as do many of us.

Burling Library, Smith Memorial PS 3602 .Y58 M74 2008.

is also the author of Madeleine is Sleeping. Harcourt, 2004.

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