Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Language Arts by Stephanie Kallos


Grief fills the room up of my absent child
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form.
--William Shakespeare, The Life and Death of King John (as quoted in Language Arts)

Charles Marlow is a Language Arts teacher and the divorced father of a 21-year-old autistic son, Cody. How Charlie and his wife reacted to their son's condition led to their divorce but also binds them in their roles of perpetual caregivers.

Charles has been drinking through their collection of fine wines as he opens boxes of papers and magazines in a search for their daughter Emmy's box. The process leads him to remember his Fourth Grade year when his proficiency at the Palmer Writing Method earned him his teacher's recognition and his story Flipper Boy won a prize but revealed too much about his home life. A misfit classmate with Fragile X syndrome spoke his first words in idolization of Charlie's loops. Charlie befriended the the boy and tutored him in the Palmer method.

Adult Charles has been asked to mentor a student whose project involves photographing residents of Cody's group home and writing a poem to accompany each photo. The girl reminds Charles of his daughter Emmy. He reluctantly agrees to co-mentor along with the school art teacher.

Stephanie Kallos writes with great humanity and sympathy about the human condition. We learn about Charles through flashbacks and his interactions with students and family, coming to understand his complex past and crisis of finding a future. She deals with some of the most harrowing issues a family can face, experiences that divides parents and ends marriages, and explores Charles' dysfunctional home life full of spousal anger and accusations. Kallos' portrayals feel true to life and wrenching.

I was so moved by this novel that on page 307 I cried, heartbroken for Charles. He was so alone.

Rays of light comes into Charles' life. His student's art project allows Cody a voice no one knew he had and unearths a part of Charles past to life. We come to understand Charles past and present and are given a glimpse into a possible future. His Language Arts experience comes full circle to a satisfying resolution.

I had read Broken For You by Stephanie Kallos and enjoyed it so I was excited to receive her third novel Language Arts through NetGalley. I usually read the NetGalley books in order of soonest to be published, but I skipped over to this book and am glad I did.

I received a free ebook in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Language Arts
by Stephanie Kallos
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication June 9, 2015
ISBN: 9780547939742
$27.00 hard cover