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The English Teacher
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Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles, the text for Vida Avery's sophomore English class, presages the characters and story of this recording. Vida, the best English teacher on the faculty of Fayer Academy, a private, Northeast high school, arrived there with baby son Peter 15 years ago. In what seems an improbable turn of events, she becomes engaged and marries widower Tom Belou. Her past slowly unravels as she withdraws into bouts of drinking, her son responds to a father and family he's always yearned for, and her career careens out of control. Christina Moore provides a serviceable narration, but this realistic novel ranks as a marginal library purchase.-Sandy Glover, Camas P.L., WA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

A marriage of single parents is more often the stuff of sitcoms than of serious novels, but King (The Pleasing Hour) uses it to great effect in this intense character study. Single mother Vida Avery teaches English at an exclusive northeastern private high school and has a host of protective rituals that keep her life with adolescent son Peter basically on track; she also allows everyone, including boyfriend Tom, to think that she had been married to Peter's father. Peter, who has longed for an intact family, is thrilled when Vida accepts the proposal of Tom, a widower with three children-albeit in an ambivalent manner full of simmering private rage. Whiting winner King renders Vida's seething withholding in a free, direct style that captures everything from knowing responses toward a male co-worker ("who wanted to play jilted suitor, not because he had loved her, but because she had not loved him") to her dreams of killing Peter. She's also excellent on the children's reactions to each other as the households come together and then separate, dramatically and perhaps permanently. King keeps Vida in tight focus throughout, even as the wrenching story of Peter's conception slowly comes to light. Agent, Wendy Weil. 60,000 first printing; $50,000 ad/promo; 10-city tour. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Adult/High School-Vida Avery teaches literature at a New England prep school. She arrived at its doors 15 years earlier with her baby and a mysterious past. She is considered the best English teacher at Fayer Academy and she maintains rigid control of her classroom, tolerating no tangents, personal discussion, or questions. She tries to keep that same control over her life, which is why she shocks everyone, including herself, by marrying Tom Belou, a widower with three children. Her teenaged son, Peter, is thrilled to be moving from their quarters on the campus to a real house with a real family, but he finds that his stepsiblings are still grieving for their mother. His mother's closely guarded emotional world begins to unravel and she suffers a complete breakdown. The 1980 Iran Hostage Crisis provides the backdrop for the story, paralleling Vida's sense of being a captive in her marriage, but the stronger metaphor is Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles, the tragic tale of an unwed mother, which Vida begins teaching the Monday after her wedding. Only when she reveals to Peter the truth about their past can any healing begin. King's engaging writing beautifully illuminates the complicated relationships and emotions of everyone involved. It is a story of isolation, patience, and love, and of people trying to find comfort in one another. The author's style is unsentimental and direct, and the compelling story draws readers right in.-Susanne Bardelson, Kitsap Regional Library, WA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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