My Education

Susan Choi's fourth novel, My Education, could be lumped into the ever-growing pile of coming-of-age-via-shattered-innocence  tales -- like Lynn Barber's memoir of a very similar title, An Education. But Choi turns the cliché on its head by having her protagonist, Regina, an English doctoral student, fall in love not with her older male professor but instead with his mysterious and pregnant wife. Seeing Martha for the first time, Regina feels the impact of her attention. "Without pausing she threw a look at Brodeur that seemed to drop on him like a grenade...she was impressive in that way that preempts every other impression." And her depiction of the ensuing affair is suitably steamy: "We lay hours on end raptly stroking the other's smooth face...we endured our orgasms like shipwreck survivors with hoarse shrieks of actual fear."

This is not Choi's first time at the rodeo. Her second novel, American Woman, was a nominee for the Pulitzer Prize. But her flowery language occasionally goes overboard, as in this mouthful of SAT vocabulary: "My classmates constituted a cabal of highly specialized persons, and once the spell was broken they piped up in an elaborate argot." Subplots and minor characters are introduced too late or neglected for too long to make much sense of the novel's ending. But all that said, My Education is more than just a juicy summer read. Choi's accomplishment is her ability to capture the feeling of falling in love. When Martha comes to visit Regina's new apartment, Regina marvels, "How had she done it? She had bound the room deftly all was snug." My Education shows us just how ignorant we are at that first bloom, and how little skill most of us have at discerning the difference between lasting love and utter infatuation.


July 23: Jessica Mitford died on this day in 1996.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page proves herself to be the Alice Munro of the supernatural, in these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.


When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small town wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).