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Ms. Hempel Chronicles Paperback – September 18, 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
How many lessons must I (and publishers, for shame) learn about judging a book by its cover? As a writer, I cannot recommend this book enough. Ms Hempel is a thoroughly engaging protagonist full of doubt, wonder, humor, and above all heart. This is a book about life and its author a master. Sarah Shun-lien Bynum's words are carefully chosen - so carefully chosen as to flow effortlessly for the reader.
The sentiment here is not heavy handed; she doesn't beat you over the head. The book is written matter-of-fact, devoid of the chick-flicky weepiness that I so despise. So why did I find myself weeping at the end of this wonderful work of art? I suppose it's because I, as with her former students, remain deeply haunted by Ms. Hempel.
Though the subject matter may seem perfectly ordinary, the quality of the writing is anything but. Bynum has an outstanding command of the English language and I was simply blown away by some of her descriptions. I walked away from this book thinking, "this author is an extraordinary writer." However, I also walked away thinking that this book left me hanging, begging for another chapter to give it some sense of closure. It just did not feel complete and that prevented me from giving it five stars, which is too bad because I enjoyed this book a great deal. Enjoy every word of this one because there are not as many as you might wish and because writing of this caliber does not come along every day.
Bynum, Sarah Shun-Lieh. Ms Hempel Chronicles. Harcourt. 2008. 195p. $23.00.
I have just finished two extraordinary novels about what it is to be a woman. The one is Kate Walbert's A Short History of Women and the other is Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum's Ms Hempel Chronicles.
Both books are short: Walbert's is 224 pages and Bynum's is even shorter at 195 pages. Both expose their subject's lives episodically: Walbert, snapshots spanning five generations of extraordinary women in one exceptional family, episodes that stretch from 1898 to 2007; Bynum, interlocking and mutually reinforcing glances at the life and experiences of a middle-school teacher -seventh grade, social studies-- who doesn't think she's exceptional at all, from her first year teaching through a time years later when she has left teaching and encounters a former pupil and discovers what effect she had on that girl's life and the life of her classmates.
Both books are superb. No, that is the wrong word to use for them. "Superb," accurate though it is, is pallid, too critic-like. These books, and especially Short History, beg for the fan's language: I don't approve of these two books, I love them! Time and again, as I read Walbert's short novel, I thought: "What male (or female) author has ever caught the dilemmas and hang-ups of being male as well as she does with women, and in Walbert's case.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a collection of short stories focused on a young teacher by the name of Ms. Hempel. She teaches 7th grade. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Michelle Boytim
This is a beautifully observed novel tracing one young teacher's -- you will come to know 'Bea' -- sojourn standing in front of middle schoolers. The prose is a joy; Ms. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Charles Coulter
Truly a great read! It is a heartwarming story that diaries the life of a 7th grade teacher and how her students and her life as a teacher impact her even long after she leaves the... Read morePublished 16 months ago by powell
I enjoyed this for the most part! Some of the authors writing can get confusing which disrupts the narrative, but overall a worthwhile read.Published 19 months ago by Toshia
Ms. Hempel Chronicles is an a wonderful collection of short stories that chronicles the life of a teacher through different stages of her life. Read morePublished on September 10, 2013 by David Moss
Someone mentioned this book to me, and it took me awhile to find it and read it, but I'm so glad I did. The stories are linked via the characters, and Ms. Read morePublished on August 9, 2013 by Amazon Customer
A delightful read, somewhat quirky, at times whimsical, Ms. Hempel Chronicles is always entertaining. Read morePublished on April 2, 2013 by Bob Brink
Ms. Hempel is a disenchanted teacher and a lost soul. Even though she's only a twenty-something, she feels like her life is stalled; she lacks ambition, motivation and enthusiasm... Read morePublished on January 25, 2013 by Jamie
My first exposure to Ms. Hempel--and to Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum--was the story "Yurt," published in The New Yorker half a decade ago and selected for the 2009 Best American Stories... Read morePublished on January 6, 2013 by D. Cloyce Smith