SAYING GRACE by Beth Gutcheon


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 Gutcheon (Domestic Pleasures, 1991) has picked and probed the amusing-to-less-savory aspects of the private-school world before in The New Girls (1979); here, the fortunes of a pedagogically superior school are seen through the personal and professional crisises of its headmistress. Rue Shaw, of the Country School in California, truly believes that ``every child matters.'' Learning is demanding, yes, but her school's discipline is light and flexible. Then into the companionable, workable network of pupils, teachers, and parents stumbles the new board chairman--Chandler Kip (or the ``Herring,'' as Rue's surgeon-husband Henry calls him). Chandler hasn't a clue, of course, as to the successful dynamic of Rue's school and will use a sledgehammer approach when crises loom: a beloved veteran teacher goes a bit loopy; another talented art teacher is on the sauce; a bright but lethal kid does some dirty work; a child is suspected of being an abuse victim, etc. And then there's a parade of parents--fuming or petitioning--coming through Rue's office. Meanwhile, as the school year unfolds, Rue finds it more and more difficult to hold Chandler at bay. On top of that, a personal nightmare begins when her only child, the beautiful, talented Georgia, announces that she plans to leave Juilliard, where she's studied vocal music for one semester, to live in Manhattan with a ``composer'' of rock music. Henry and Rue, in their helpless anger and bafflement, begin to separate, but when the horrible and unthinkable happens, the break is absolute. By the close, though, reunion and resolution of a marriage will be hard-won. A delightful look at the irreverent camaraderie of the school office, though the novel often seems crowded with its two contentious elements--the death of a school and a shocking tragedy. Still, on the whole, involving.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-06-017678-4
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1995


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