The English Teacher

Lily King, Author . Atlantic Monthly $24 (242p) ISBN 978-0-87113-897-2

A marriage of single parents is more often the stuff of sitcoms than of serious novels, but King (The Pleasing Hour ) uses it to great effect in this intense character study. Single mother Vida Avery teaches English at an exclusive northeastern private high school and has a host of protective rituals that keep her life with adolescent son Peter basically on track; she also allows everyone, including boyfriend Tom, to think that she had been married to Peter's father. Peter, who has longed for an intact family, is thrilled when Vida accepts the proposal of Tom, a widower with three children—albeit in an ambivalent manner full of simmering private rage. Whiting winner King renders Vida's seething withholding in a free, direct style that captures everything from knowing responses toward a male co-worker ("who wanted to play jilted suitor, not because he had loved her, but because she had not loved him") to her dreams of killing Peter. She's also excellent on the children's reactions to each other as the households come together and then separate, dramatically and perhaps permanently. King keeps Vida in tight focus throughout, even as the wrenching story of Peter's conception slowly comes to light. Agent, Wendy Weil. 60,000 first printing; $50,000 ad/promo; 10-city tour. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 06/20/2005
Release date: 07/01/2005
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 250 pages - 978-0-8021-4266-5
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-1-55584-664-0
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