I’m a sucker for a good prep school story. I’m not sure if it’s the promise of knowledge there for the taking, secret societies, or general student angst that usually leads me to those books, but there was something unique about Elizabeth Percer’s debut novel, An Uncommon Education. The education of Percer’s brilliant protagonist, Naomi Feinstein, was not provided by private boarding schools. Her “preparatory” education came from her father, who recognized early that his daughter could remember everything she ever read. It was through his guidance that Naomi progressed—friendless—through the public schools of Boston and onto the friendlier Wellesley College.
I use little metal Book Darts when I read to mark sentences or passages that make me pause because they are remarkably written. A quarter of the way through this book, I stopped doing this for fear that Percer’s writing would exhaust my supply of darts. And equally impressive to her crafting of sentences is the believability of the story. You might expect that Naomi, with her photographic memory, would excel at Wellesley. But when distractions cause her grades to slip, it’s refreshingly plausible.
Naomi constantly changes her course of study. She remembers a comment her father made to her as a young girl, that she could know it all. Instead, the complications of life throw her off course, and she moves from pre-med, to English, to psychology, to neurology, convinced she can save everyone in her world.
An Uncommon Education comes through with the promised knowledge, secret societies, and all that. But more importantly, it delivers a well crafted plot in language beautifully rendered.
An Uncommon Education