In Meade’s (The Summer of the Disco King, 2011) novel, a teacher struggles to flee an abusive relationship while navigating her role at a new school.
Kate Ross is eager to start the year as a sixth-grade teacher at her district’s new middle school. Polished, professional and well-loved by her students, she seems to have it all. But she’s hiding a dark secret: Al, her husband of 10 years, is an abusive alcoholic, and she fears for the safety of both herself and her daughter. As Kate wrestles with her decision about whether to leave Al, life gets more complicated at work when a student is injured when Kate’s on recess duty. Meanwhile, Kate’s “looks and brains” attract the attention of several suitors, including the charming Pete Lange, a school administrator. Kate is equally smitten, but their co-worker relationship and her personal troubles seem to stand in the way of happiness. Meade, a former teacher, finds drama in the seemingly mundane details of middle school life—the stress an instructor feels when being evaluated, the delicate matter of dealing with an irate parent, the personality clashes between teachers. Though the stage occasionally seems crowded with minor players, Westmore Middle School is populated by an amusing cast of characters, and their foibles add levity to an otherwise serious story. But the heart of this novel involves Kate’s evolution from battered housewife to empowered single woman. It’s an emotionally resonant story, and Kate’s fear and anxiety are palpable as she moves gingerly around her husband, doing anything she can do to avoid provoking his wrath. Meade sprinkles her narrative with some tense action scenes—e.g., a threatening, late-night phone call from Al that causes Kate to flee her apartment in terror—that will keep readers on edge. Through her relatable, vivacious protagonist, Meade offers a window into the deep struggles of an abuse victim, with Kate first desperately hoping that Al will change, then finally realizing that “she could not continue to live under the same roof with him, not for any reason.”
A page-turning story of a woman’s struggle to overcome abuse and make a new path forward.