An Uncommon Education
By Elizabeth Percer
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780062110961, 352pp.)
Publication Date: May 1, 2012
List Price: $24.99*
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A young woman tries to save three people she loves in this elegant and remarkably insightful coming-of-age debut.
Afraid of losing her parents at a young ageher father with his weak heart, her deeply depressed motherNaomi Feinstein prepared single-mindedly for a prestigious future as a doctor. An outcast at school, Naomi loses herself in books, and daydreams of Wellesley College. But when Teddy, her confidant and only friend, abruptly departs from her life, it's the first devastating loss from which Naomi is not sure she can ever recover, even after her long-awaited acceptance letter to Wellesley arrives.
Naomi soon learns that college isn't the bastion of solidarity and security she had imagined. Amid hundreds of other young women, she is consumed by lonelinessuntil the day she sees a girl fall into the freezing waters of a lake.
The event marks Naomi's introduction to Wellesley's oldest honor society, the mysterious Shakespeare Society, defined by secret rituals and filled with unconventional, passionate students. Naomi finally begins to detach from the past and so much of what defines her, immersing herself in this exciting and liberating new world and learning the value of friendship. But her happiness is soon compromised by a scandal that brings irrevocable consequences. Naomi has always tried to save the ones she loves, but part of growing up is learning that sometimes saving others is a matter of saving yourself.
An Uncommon Education is a compelling portrait of a quest for greatness and the grace of human limitations. Poignant and wise, it artfully captures the complicated ties of family, the bittersweet inevitability of loss, and the importance of learning to let go.
Elizabeth Percer is a three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and has twice been honored by the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Foundation. She received a BA in English from Wellesley and a PhD in arts education from Stanford University, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship for the National Writing Project at UC Berkeley. She lives in California with her husband and three children. An Uncommon Education is her first novel.
“Enticing and shyly perceptive.”
-New York Times Book Review
“Think Dead Poet’s Society or The Secret History.”
-New York Post
“A fine novel and a young writer to watch.”
-Hudson Valley News
“[Naomi demonstrates] how to make the kinds of choices that eventually lead to an uncommon but joy-filled life.”
“Three-time Pushcart nominee Percer offers an uncommonly good debut that’s finely detailed and emotionally gripping while avoiding every pitfall of the standard coming-of-age tale. Highly recommended.”
-Library Journal (starred review)
“Poet Percer’s fiction debut is an intimate portrait of an intelligent, tender girl with a deep wish to protect those she loves.”
“A moving and bittersweet coming-of-age story about love, loss, friendship, ambition, and the power of memory. This complex and satisfying tale introduces a cast of quirky, hilarious, intellectual young women, struggling to find their place in the world.”
-J. Courtney Sullivan, New York Times bestselling author of Maine and Commencement
“Bonds of love, family and friendship, sometimes damaged or beyond repair, are nevertheless celebrated in an intense debut by a noted poet. . . . [A] thoughtful coming-of-age tale that hovers observantly on the edge of melancholia.”
“A wistful debut novel by noted Bay Area poet.”
-San Jose Mercury News
“Percer’s lyrical novel has much to offer.”
“Eloquent, haunting and exquisitely written, Percer’s stunning debut finds surprising beauty in the broken places of our lives. Here, winning can’t mute pain, but love endures despite the odds, and the education of a remarkable young woman is as uncommonly original as this novel itself.”
-Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You
“Haunting and poignant, Elizabeth Percer’s coming-of-age novel portrays a bright young woman confronting her limits as she watches those she loves deal with illness and betrayal. Each turn of this elegiac debut revealed stark truths that left me both moved and astonished.”
-Lauren Belfer, New York Times bestselling author of A Fierce Radiance and City of Light
“It’s impossible not to care about Naomi Feinstein . . . An Uncommon Education beautifully [brings] Naomi to the Bard (the play’s the thing), but also gives the reader something much rarer--a world, and a life, that seem real.”
-Nicole Mones, author of Lost in Translation and The Last Chinese Chef
“Elizabeth Percer relates the life story of Naomi Feinstein with beautifully scripted, lush prose drawing in the reader and providing an unobstructed view deep into the hearts of her characters. . . . Rich in history, steeped in family tradition, and full of emotion--a lesson in practiced elegance.”
-New York Journal of Books