Thursday, June 11, 2015

Book Review: Language Arts by Stephanie Kallos

Language Arts by Stephanie Kallos book cover and review
Language Arts is really the story of Charles, who at middle age is continuing to navigate through a life that hasn't always been ideal.

The reader doesn't really need to know much about the plot of Language Arts. Charles is divorced, but friendly with his ex wife. They really have to be friendly because their son, Cody, is a low-functioning, non-verbal autistic child who will soon be twenty-one.

At the beginning of the book, we get different perspectives and time periods. Along with Charles, sometimes we get the POV of his daughter, Emmy, and also Cody. There are also sections about a nun who is suffering from what appears to be Alzheimers and lives in the same care facility as Cody. The story sometimes jumps abruptly in time, also. We relive Charles' childhood with him, and it's apparent that something traumatic happened at school when he was ten.

Eventually Language Arts settles down and we see only Charles' perspective, transitioning easily from past to present. I'm not sure why Kallos decided to forgo the other perspectives, but I found myself much more engaged after the simplification. I enjoyed Kallos' style and found her descriptions and analogies interesting.

The addition of the Palmer Method of penmanship adds much to the story, especially since I remember being taught this in school. (Even though the linked article says this method lost popularity in the 50s and I wasn't in grade school until the late 60s.) I don't remember practicing all those loops, though.

The ending is satisfying and surprising. I love when you get to the "Aha! That's why.....!" at the end, and Language Arts is definitely fulfilling in that regard.

While I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this to adult readers, I think Language Arts has limited appeal to teens. I think as a reader, you need to have more life experiences in order to really relate to Charles.

Published by Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, June 9, 2015
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
416 pages

Rating: 4/5

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