A sharp and tightly crafted tale of campus exploitation.




A young college student begins an affair with her history professor in this novel.

Why is a male teaching women’s history?” That’s what Miss Jane, a “Cracker hick/chick” away at a state university on a scholarship, would like to know when she sits down with her 30 female classmates (and three female teaching assistants) in Prof P’s seminar classroom. Her precociousness does not escape the professor’s notice, as he quickly moves Jane from the study group overseen by TA Alice to his own. Prof P is a popular, hip teacher, the kind who holds his classes outside and tosses his students’ notebooks across the lawn, haranguing them not to scribble but to think. He is a divorced father on the cusp of middle age, and Jane is the ninth of his “college gal projects,” easy conquests due to the power imbalance between teacher and pupil. Jane can’t help but be flattered by the attention Prof P heaps on her. Anyway, he’s easier to talk to than hookup partner and fellow student Seth B. Despite the warnings of her ambitious roommate, Cinda G, Jane allows Prof P to seduce her before finals. She feels deeply confused about the affair while home for Christmas break but then accepts Prof P’s offer to move in with him when she returns to school the next semester. As Jane becomes more deeply embroiled in Prof P’s world—his colleagues, children, and the complicit echo chamber of the academy—the situation threatens to upend her education and cause more lasting damage: “With Miss Jane nightly in his bed, Prof P’s mission grows exponentially more ambitious. To subdue a body, one thing; to reprogram a mind, a thing far grander.” Meads’ (In This Season of Rage and Melancholy Such Irrevocable Acts as These, 2016, etc.) prose is playfully postmodern, layered with linguistic tricks and dripping with self-awareness. The narrator is a Greek chorus animated by the righteous indignation that the confused Jane does not yet possess: “Thematically we will stay the course. Power politics. Sexual politics. Age versus youth. Authority’s manipulation of head-to-pubes-to-toe confusion. The world’s themes do not change, why should they here?” The novel is short, but nearly every sentence is imbued with a wry, astute, or lyrical comment. While at first the whole thing feels highly satirical, the characters are slowly revealed to possess unexpected complexity, particularly Jane and her fellow students. Even Prof P, who is not at all sympathetic, is frighteningly believable. Meads endeavors not simply to show how such an affair comes about, but also how much damage it can do to the younger party. She provides a response to the many campus novels over the years written from the (usually permissive) perspective of the lecherous professor. Though the story takes place in 1969—and many of the barbs, such as Prof P’s Greek fisherman’s cap and turquoise necklace, are aimed specifically at that era—the book feels incredibly relevant to today’s reckoning with powerful men’s sexual abuse of the women around them.

A sharp and tightly crafted tale of campus exploitation.

Pub Date: May 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-60489-201-7

Page Count: 203

Publisher: Livingston Press

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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