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Ms. Hempel Chronicles: A Novel (Paperback)

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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


Ms. Hempel Chronicles is a "deeply affecting" (Los Angeles Times) novel of a devoted young teacher finding her way

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 is the author of the novels Ms. Hempel Chronicles, a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award; and Madeleine Is Sleeping, a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize. Her fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including the New Yorker, Ploughshares, Tin House, The Best American Short Stories, and the O. Henry Prize Stories. The recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and an NEA Fellowship, she was named one of “20 Under 40” fiction writers by the New Yorker. She lives in Los Angeles.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781250781345
ISBN-10: 1250781345
Publisher: Picador
Publication Date: October 27th, 2020
Pages: 208