- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (June 21, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0544715268
- ISBN-13: 978-0544715264
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 95 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #307,240 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Language Arts Paperback – June 21, 2016
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Washington Book Award Finalist
“Kallos’s earlier novels, Broken for You (2004) and Sing Them Home (2009), have been widely praised, and her third deserves all of those kudos and more. This novel, masterfully plotted and written, is a wondrously beautiful story of love and loss, offering hope in the face of the harshest reality.” — Booklist, starred review
“Touchingly humane and impressive in scope . . . A voluminous novel exploring words and expression, parenting and letting go.” — Kirkus Reviews
"Charles Marlow and his ex-wife face a difficult question about their autistic son's future in the latest novel by best-selling Seattle author Stephanie Kallos. She peels away layer after layer of a father's heart, revealing a life riddled with vivid memories, surprising complications, and full of love."—Oregon Live
“For me, it would be plenty if a novel was deeply felt, utterly absorbing, and full of wit. But in Language Arts, Stephanie Kallos goes further, throwing in a doozy of a twist that had me going back to page one to understand how she pulled off such dazzling sleight of hand. An all-around delight.” — Maria Semple, best-selling author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette?
“Language Arts was like yoga for my heart—my sentiments were stretched and strengthened, my imagination challenged and contorted, and when I finished, I felt grateful for this beautifully honest, lyrical journey. I loved this book.” — Jamie Ford, best-selling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
From the Back Cover
For me, it would be plenty if a novel was deeply felt, utterly absorbing, and full of wit. But in Language Arts, Stephanie Kallos goes further, throwing in a doozy of a twist that had me going back to page one to understand how she pulled off such dazzling sleight of hand. An all-around delight. Maria Semple, author of Where d You Go, Bernadette?
Charles Marlow teaches his high school English students that language will expand their worlds. But linguistic precision cannot help him connect with his autistic son, his ex-wife, or his college-bound daughter, who has just flown the nest. He s at the end of a road he s traveled on autopilot for years when a series of events forces him to think back on the lifetime of decisions and indecisions that have brought him to this point. With the help of an ambitious art student, an Italian-speaking nun, and the memory of a boy in a white suit who inscribed his childhood with both solace and sorrow, Charles may finally be able to rewrite the script of his life.
From the best-selling author of Broken for You, Language Arts is an affecting tale of love, loss, and language its powers and its perils.
[A] beautifully written, harrowing novel ... Her vivid descriptions create a cast of memorable characters. She also delivers a huge shocker of a plot twist, one that may send you back to the beginning of the book as you wonder how this development could be possible. Seattle Times
STEPHANIE KALLOS is the author of the national bestseller Broken for You, which was selected by Sue Monk Kidd for the Today book club, and Sing Them Home, one of Entertainment Weekly s ten best novels of the year. She lives in Seattle with her family.
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We are introduced to Cody as a two year old by his sister Emmy at the start. A precocious little one speaking words beyond his age and then suddenly losing his speech and exhibiting other signs that something just isn't right . Fast forward and Cody is almost 21, autistic, and on the verge of aging out of the state supported home .
The point of view is mainly that of Cody's dad, Charles , who seems pretty fragile. We just don't know how fragile and broken until towards the end of the story . He's a Language Arts teacher, divorced and is trying to adjust to Emmy going off to college. His narrative alternates between the present and his fourth grade self as well as letters to Emmy.
I wasn't sure at first what the focus on the cursive writing in the flashbacks was about but Charles' memories of fourth grade become meaningful in his remembrance of his classmate, Dana McGucken ,the boy dressed in white from his fourth grade class , most likely autistic but not diagnosed as such at that time.
Kallos also provides the point of view of Sister Giorgia , a nun with dementia. We enter her past , her stories wondering what is real , what is imagined. It's sad as we see her feeling alone when the present she doesn't understand creeps into her memory, her present . She is committed to the same home where Cody lives .
And if all of this isn't sad enough , I was thrown for a loop towards the end of the story while reading one of the letters Charles writes to his daughter . I cried from that point to the end . This is a sad , beautiful story about characters that I came to love and how they about deal with and live through some of the toughest things that life sometimes brings . It's about how we communicate with or without language, how we connect with other human beings .
Alison is Charles’ ex-wife and mother of Cody. As a lawyer, she comes at any conversation with the outcome methodically crafted at the outset. She engineers her son’s life in minute detail, much as she might research and prepare a case for trial. She and Charles are frequently at odds for what will bring about the most favorable outcome where Cody is concerned.
Their younger daughter Emily also figures into the story, if only to tell us about her father and his motivations. He writes to her frequently in a kind of journeling style. We learn through her that Charles is not the most reliable narrator and makes us question all he’s told us about his life thus far.
Ultimately Charles’ past and present come together in a breathtaking encounter with a mentally unbalanced nun. His redemption has come in a way he could never have anticipated. A beautiful story about what we see and believe about our lives.
One reviewer described this book as "yoga for the heart," and I see what she means. It did stretch me and challenge me, and it seriously opened my heart. I read perhaps the last 200 pages on the edge of tears. I would describe as thoughtful and hopeful (in a way). I didn't give it five stars because sometimes detail bogged me down. Charles' letters to Emily, for example, while essential to the book, did not really interest me. What I loved, however, was the way the multiple strands came together so beautifully. Sometimes I wondered, but I trusted the author, and I wasn't disappointed.