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School for the Blind Mass Market Paperback

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: Ivy Books (April 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804113505
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804113502
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 4.5 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,166,434 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

McFarland's first novel, The Music Room , was justly praised for its insights into human nature and its graceful prose. His new work will draw raves for yet deeper sensibilities, as he tackles the subjects of aging and death. Here he chronicles the waning years of two elderly siblings, Francis and Muriel Brimm, as they reluctantly come to grips with the past and learn to accept their gradual decline. Yet this is no lugubrious story, for as he did in his earlier book, McFarland places a mystery at the center of the tale. Walking on the golf course near the Florida town where Muriel has spent her life and to which retired photojournalist Frank has returned, they discover the bones of two students from the nearby school for the blind. The search for the killer's identity forces Frank and Muriel to abandon their own willed "blindness" and to retrieve memories of their childhood with a mean, alcoholic father and a stern, cold mother. Eventually Muriel must confront the devastating fact of her father's molestation. (If this plot strand smacks of overuse, let it be said that in McFarland's hands it acquires fresh credibility and poignancy.) McFarland moves the plot with deliberate speed, interweaving some memorable supporting characters, the most vivid of whom is tough-mouthed Dierdre, Muriel's housecleaner, who acquires a pivotal role in their lives; a gentle black police detective; and several neighbors. There is a new dimension to McFarland's writing here, as he displays an extraordinary ability to describe both states of mind and the evanescent physical sensations that accompany them. His technical control is admirable in his subtle contrast of Muriel's spiritual longings with Frank's cynical agnosticism and his inspired use of a Chekhov story. Though he writes unsentimentally about old age and death, when he allows his language to soar into poetry, it is transcendent and beautifully moving. BOMC selection; author tour.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Once again, McFarland traces the shadows of childhood as they darken the psyche well into adulthood. As in his first novel, the well-received The Music Room (1990), a character's homecoming inspires a confrontation with the past. Francis Brimm, a famous news photographer, has been all around the world, gathering no moss, wife, or children. He decides, unexpectedly, to return to his little Florida hometown when he retires. His sister Muriel has also remained single, but unlike her worldly brother, she has never left the house she grew up in. This lack of variety has not made Muriel dull; she is a woman of quiet intelligence, fortitude, and compassion. Their quiet reunion arouses old, disturbing memories for Muriel, while Francis experiences a persistent vision. Both forms of psychic disturbance cause pain. Muriel begins to suspect she was sexually abused by her father, while Francis realizes he is dying. Add one young, unmarried, pregnant, troubled, and kind housekeeper, and a murder investigation, and you have a story of many dimensions. McFarland has retained the lyricism and generosity of spirit that distinguished his first novel while extending his range with humor, suspense, and a bracingly clear-eyed consideration of death. Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Dennis McFarland is the author of NOSTALGIA, LETTER FROM POINT CLEAR, PRINCE EDWARD, SINGING BOY, A FACE AT THE WINDOW, SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND, and THE MUSIC ROOM. His short fiction has appeared in THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR, THE NEW YORKER, PRIZE STORIES: THE O'HENRY AWARDS, BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES, and elsewhere. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts and Stanford University. He lives in rural Vermont with his wife, writer and poet Michelle Blake.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 28, 1999
Format: Hardcover
School for the Blind is a great book, a cut above the rest. I read this book when it was first published and still recommend it. It is the story of an elderly brother and sister, one who is dying and the other who lives a dull, resentful life. Both have spent their lives running away from their painful past in different ways. They have come to a point where they have to face these painful secrets and at the same learn how to grow old with their family history. Into their lives comes a young woman, confident, pregnant and alone, she is the breath of life that they have denied themselves for so long. Add to this the shocking murder of two high school students at the local school for the blind, an investigation, threatening phone calls and you have a suspenseful good read. Intense and heartfelt at the same time, this is one of those stories that I'll never forget. I loved this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By algo41 on March 1, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I was enjoying this novel, but not taking it very seriously. The writing was competent enough, but I found it a bit pretentious when it tried to be important. Then, I changed my mind. It is a very uplifting story of two elderly people who are able, as septuagenarians, to grow through self discovery. One of them meets the kind of end most of us would like to meet, with acceptance and dignity, amidst loved ones. I found this book especially heartening as a senior citizen (and as a recent reader of Wallace Stegner's "Spectator Bird" in which the elderly character views himself as being in a line, getting ever closer to the end as friends in front die). "School for the Blind" is warm and humorous. While things work out well for several of the characters, McFarland wraps up the plot without being implausible or sentimental.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By agilicairn on August 28, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have read and re-read this book. I have also recommended it to others, and everyone has liked it! The characterizations are so good, and the ending is quietly hopeful. The reader can really enjoy Muriel and Brimm as they confront how they have dealt with their dark childhood and try to grow beyond it, even as they face Brimm's death. I really like the way they struggle to acknowledge painful events and learn from them -- but still not let themselves be completely defined by them. The murder mystery -- I really haven't been able to grasp how that ties in with the rest of the story; it seems tacked on and out of tempo with a self-exploratory novel, but it does fit in with the emotional timbre of the book. Also, involvement in the mystery does give Muriel a chance to be active in the present and to impact her community in a positive way, as she contributes to finding the serial killer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By e. verrillo on August 16, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Although ostensibly a murder mystery, School for the Blind is actually a mystery of another sort entirely. In this book McFarland unravels the mystery of childhood trauma-- thoughtfully, eloquently, and with breathtaking perception. The two main characters--a brother and sister who are brought together at the end of their lives by shared isolation--are sharply defined, and portrayed in all their frailty with McFarland's customary wit. The prose is simply wonderful, liquid and clear, without a single false note. The one complaint I have of this book is that it left too much hanging. The rather gruesome murder that jump starts this story needed to have been followed up with more consistency. (After all, it is the one salient event in the book.) The enigma of the exotic and lovely Claudia Callejas was not adequately resolved, nor was her puzzling relationship with her nephew. And while McFarland wraps up most of his plot, the book ends in a confusing backwards-looking anticlimax. Another 50 pages would have done School for the Blind a world of good. But when all is said and done, it still remains a beautiful, contemplative exploration of the human psyche.
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