Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Season of Second Chances Delves Into Academia and a Life Renewed

Columbia professor Joy Harkness is offered a large sum of money to leave her current position and take a new one at Amherst College in Massachusetts. As she dines out with two spinster sisters the night before her move, she realizes that she has very little to show for her decades in New York City. In fact, she knows very little about these two women, very likely her closest friends there. Joy had big dreams when she moved to the city -- shopping at smart shops, dining out at the best restaurants. Somehow, all that fell apart once she actually lived there, and now she finds herself 48 years old, entirely alone, and very much outside the loop of what is "hip" and not.

From the beginning, Amherst is a very different sort of experience for Joy. She shares an office suite on campus with a vivacious French professor and a chummy sort of secretary. They bring her into their fold as though they've known her always. Soon Josie, the French professor, is bringing in gourmet picnic lunches for the three of them to share and inviting Joy to her home for dinner. Josie goes so far as to call a handyman to come and begin work on Joy's recent purchase -- a huge Victorian in a state of disrepair. Although she makes every attempt to maintain her distance, slowly but surely Joy is pulled into a circle of friends unlike anything she's ever experienced.

I enjoyed Diane Meier's first foray into the world of fiction with this debut novel The Season of Second Chances. Known for her book about the changing customs in modern marriage ceremonies, The New American Wedding, and for her work in the field of marketing, Meier has created an exceptionally well-written first novel. The book's cover gives readers a hint of the style to come within its pages. One of my favorite parts of the novel was the attention to the details of home that Meier includes. As Joy renovates and redecorates her house with the help of handyman and historical home expert Teddy, Meier provides lush descriptions of the colors and fabrics used.

I also enjoyed the slice of academic life portrayed in the novel. The Season of Second Chances is set in a college town and on a college campus. Although never overbearing, Meier includes an array of interesting scenes from Joy's life as a professor. Joy was recruited by an Amherst professor to participate in a cohort of professors who are developing a new style of teaching. They plan to begin with a set of courses on Shakespeare which will blend subjects together in a new way; while teaching Shakespeare, professors will include historically accurate information in subjects such as science, social sciences, and mathematics from Shakespeare's time. Although not a large part of the novel's action, Meier included enough to keep me interested in that piece of the plot throughout the book.

Want to know more? Look to these reviews for a more in-depth analysis of the novel:

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails