After her English teacher misses class at her Connecticut private school, Flannery discovers the purse she left behind, containing a newspaper obituary for Brandon, a soldier killed in action, and a copy of Wuthering Heights that, when opened, tells not Emily Brontë’s story but Miss Sweeney’s own.
Caitlin Sweeney’s nourished Flannery’s passion for Wuthering Heights and her dreams of becoming a writer, encouraging her to apply to her alma mater, Columbia University. Transformed into a first-person narrative, Caitlin’s book becomes Flannery’s guide as she anxiously pursues Caitlin, who’s desperate to unite with Brandon, her deceased first love. Following Caitlin to Manhattan, Flannery’s joined by a handsome, mysterious Englishman named (of course) Heath. As they seek Caitlin, she searches for Brandon. Despite some closely observed, skillfully rendered scenes, the awkward central conceit—Brontë’s novel transformed into Caitlin’s real-time narrative—remains unconvincing, either as fantasy or realism, lacking the conceptual infrastructure to support belief. Caitlin’s elitist, judgmental tone distances readers. Flannery echoes Caitlin’s disdain for her shallow classmates and welcomes frequent interruptions from her inner editor, a virtual Miss Sweeney, questioning and ridiculing Flannery’s word choices (readers may feel less forgiving). Steeped, like Flannery, in white-privileged affluence, Caitlin regrets having failed to bridge the gulf between herself and white, working-class Brandon, who rejected community college and followed her to New York—but her remorse seems less Brontë-esque tragedy than justified payback.
Ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful. (Fiction. 14-17)