The classrooms and boardrooms of an elite Manhattan prep school are plumbed for plot and pathos.
Troubles are piling up for Kathryn “Lazy” Hoffman, headmistress of Griffin School, grades K-12. She just turned 43, a fact of life she’s dismayed about. She’s not allowed to smoke in her office, which she perceives as an affront to her authority. She feels guilty about cheating on her loving husband with one of Griffin’s teachers, the handsome, WASP-y Doug McNamee, who calls her his “Jewish Princess.” Even worse, it’s “early admission notification time,” so students’ mothers are threatening suicide if their offspring are not admitted to Harvard or Yale. Finally, the mother of senior Morgan Goldfine, a generous benefactor to Griffin, succumbs after a long battle with cancer. Somehow Lazy has to transport 99 students to the funeral. Lazy isn’t the only member of the Griffin community with tribulations, however. In alternating short chapters, four other main characters reveal their plights: Julianne, the go-to friend of troubled teens, who not only has her grief-stricken best friend Morgan to console but must also reassure Michael, her increasingly paranoid, handsome, intelligent, bi-polar and off-his-meds boyfriend, of her undying love; Julianne’s mother Dee, the author of seven critically acclaimed, minimally sold novels who now drives a cab and watches helplessly as Julianne gets drawn into Michael’s madness; Susan, Michael’s mother, an aloof society matron whose greatest pleasure is sewing costumes for Boyfriend, her Chinese Crested Hairless dog, and who has no idea how to cope with her son; and Morgan, who sends late-night emails into the ether, hoping that her mother will reply. As richer, more powerful egos threaten these flawed but sincere heroines, each woman must come to terms with her own choices.
This sweet but thin academic tattle-tale by Jackson, the pseudonym for, according to the publisher, an “acclaimed short story writer,” fails to punish the wicked or reward the just.