The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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Ms. Hempel Chronicles

Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum has written a lovely second novel about the life and loves of Ms. Hempel, an seventh grade teacher in an American junior high school. The narrator is wordy and descriptive, but perfectly nuanced, using language precisely and evocatively, like a brilliant student writing her first novel for her mentor in an MFA program. The quality of the writing pulls us in and we find ourselves desperately caring about this young woman whose life has been both cut short and enriched by her experiences as a teacher. Her heroine is a modern Miss Brill, updated for the present, without the loneliness and infinite regret of the teacher of another age. In short, Bynum’s novel is utterly charming.