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Ms. Hempel Chronicles (Paperback)

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(Fiction)

Staff Reviews


It may sound insulting to call Ms. Hempel Chronicles an anti-page-turner, but I mean this as the highest praise. I found myself reading Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum’s novel-in-stories as slowly as possible, lest I miss any of the delightful, devastating twists of language and emotion she so elegantly threads into each sentence. Anchored by their titular heroine––a middle-school English teacher who, not unlike her pupils, must daily navigate the perilous in-between of youth and maturity––the eight stories in Ms. Hempel Chronicles never treat the absurdities and sorrows of adolescence and adulthood with irony. Instead, Bynum infuses even the smallest, most recognizable encounters with a genuine sense of grace, concern, and wonder. 

— From Sam

Description


Ms. Beatrice Hempel, teacher of seventh grade, is new—new to teaching, new to the school, newly engaged, and newly bereft of her idiosyncratic father. Grappling awkwardly with her newness, she struggles to figure out what is expected of her in life and at work. Is it acceptable to introduce swear words into the English curriculum, enlist students to write their own report cards, or bring up personal experiences while teaching a sex-education class?
Sarah Shun-lien Bynum finds characters at their most vulnerable, then explores those precarious moments in sharp, graceful prose. From this most innovative of young writers comes another journey down the rabbit hole to the wonderland of middle school, memory, daydreaming, and the extraordinary business of growing up.

About the Author


Sarah Shun-lien Bynum's fiction has appeared in the Georgia Review and Alaska Quarterly Review. She lives with her husband in Brooklyn, New York.

Praise For…


"What appear at first to be just interconnected short stories—albeit beautifully written, distinctively voiced, deeply smart, and very funny—in the end reveal themselves to have been a complete, organic novel about a love like none I’ve ever read about before. I don’t understand why people didn’t carry Bynum around New York City on their shoulders after this book was published." —Jonathan Franzen on the Daily Beast, "4 Books You Must Read"

"Bynum is a wonderful, practically magical writer and she depicts Ms. Hempel's life in such a hilarious, poignant, quirky way that it's irresistible...[I]t all rings so true that I want to give this book to everyone I know who has ever taught." —Curtis Sittenfeld, Salon.com

"[U]tterly winning...Each is a small gorgeous thing on its own, but the wise and whimsical Ms Hempel Chronicles gives them their collective due, deploying them on a broader canvas, their colors more layered, their impact more powerful." —The New York Sun

"Such a beautiful book is MS HEMPEL CHRONICLES, the kind that gives its reader profound insights into ordinary, everyday life...[D]eeply affecting." —Los Angeles Times

"Teachers, take note: You've got an articulate new advocate in novelist Sarah Shun-lien Bynum. Bynum's Ms Hempel Chronicles is not only a warm-hearted novel-in-stories about a young 7th-grade teacher navigating the final passage to her own adulthood even as she ushers her students through the tricky narrows of adolescence; it is also a testament to how hard--and important--the work of teaching is." —Christian Science Monitor

"[W]hen I opened this utterly charming novel, I fell in love with it." —The Washington Post

"[A] marvelous new book...Each of these eight stories dazzles on its own terms; all together they create a stunning portrait of an unforgettable character at a crossroads. It's a remarkable accomplishment, and proof that when it works, the novel in stories is a uniquely satisfying form." —San Francisco Chronicle

"The idea that we're all just aging, idiosyncratic children snatching at happiness is central to Ms HempelChronicles, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum's gently, deeply affecting second novel....Ms. Hempel's consciousness is a joy to inhabit." —Bookforum

"[Bynum's] prose remains nimble and entertaining, a model of quiet control well suited to its subject." —New York Times Book Review

"Sarah Shun-lien Bynum enchants in MS. HEMPEL CHRONICLES. —Vanity Fair

"A slim, intense delight...[Bynum] infuses her second novel with unlikely magic." —Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"[B]rilliant...It's impossible to walk away from this beautifully written book without feeling nostalgic." —DailyCandy.com

"Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum has proven herself inimitable, capable of scavenging a universe of love and disappointment from the smallest crumbs of human experience. . . . This is modest, patient, unrivaled work . . . Ms. Hempel Chronicles doesn’t sacrifice accessibility or sense of humor for affect or style—it entertains. It is a friendly book, possessed, like its protagonist, of only the quietest rebellion. Bynum’s descriptions of the young folk who make up Ms. Hempel’s universe are enough to make the book worth reading (twice). . . . Anyone who has been a student, and loved a teacher or a mentor—and suspected they were loved in return—will recognize these portraits and delight in Bynum’s apt handling of the delicate relationships between such dynamic characters. . . . Ms. Hempel Chronicles  is such a wonderful book. . . . Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum [is] one of the very best. [She] shows us that there’s nothing better than a writer who teaches and a teacher who writes."
—Annie Wyman, "The Rumpus"



"...a narrative voice as unique and engaging as that in her award-winning debut. The attention to detail is spectacular."


— Booklist
Product Details
ISBN: 9780547247755
ISBN-10: 0547247753
Publisher: Mariner Books
Publication Date: September 18th, 2009
Pages: 208
Language: English