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Language Arts PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: Language Arts
Author: Stephanie Kallos
Publisher: Published June 9th 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
ISBN: 9780547939742
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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The new novel from the best-selling author of Broken for You spins the stories of a dedicated teacher, his enigmatic son, and a wartime survivor into an affecting tale of love, loss, and handwriting. 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, or with The new novel from the best-selling author of Broken for You spins the stories of a dedicated teacher, his enigmatic son, and a wartime survivor into an affecting tale of love, loss, and handwriting. 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, or with his ex-wife, who abandoned their shared life years before, or even with 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. Sometimes the most powerful words are the ones you’re still searching for.

30 review for Language Arts

  1. 5 out of 5

    Elyse

    I bought this book last year -- 'sure' I would love it. I wanted to.... There's some contagious lovely reviews by those who love this novel. It's why I bought it myself. Yet, I was pushing myself to stay with this novel. It took me awhile to finish it. I value my friends opinions - we are often passionate about many of the same books, but this time, I was feeling like the coxswain in the row boat, (the little guy in the back of the boat)...I wasn't seeing what they were. However, I was curious ab I bought this book last year -- 'sure' I would love it. I wanted to.... There's some contagious lovely reviews by those who love this novel. It's why I bought it myself. Yet, I was pushing myself to stay with this novel. It took me awhile to finish it. I value my friends opinions - we are often passionate about many of the same books, but this time, I was feeling like the coxswain in the row boat, (the little guy in the back of the boat)...I wasn't seeing what they were. However, I was curious about the opening sentence: "When my brother Cody was about two years old and for reasons our baffled parents were never able to fathom, the word God entered his vocabulary". It sounded catchy - sounded like a sentence most readers would find powerful - intrigued- moved - invested to keep reading. It worried me, but my curiosity kept me reading. I didn't click with some of the 'grandiloquence' aspects of the text, the answering of prayers....(at times I did .. but not consistently) ....then slowly this book picked up. I like the idea of exploring the theme of communication-- ( the art and complexities), of relating to one another.....but in reality... as a novel ...much the aspects of the details were just too tedious for me. Things felt disjointed and flat. The ending was better --but overall, this book is not the general style of writing I can focus with easy. I'm going with 3.5 stars ....It's an interesting topic....and I have respect for this novel. The tenderness is authentic. I just found it hard to hold my attention. Other reviews to read... Angela M first inspired me to read this book. Her last line. "It's about how we communicate with or without language, how we connect with other human beings". ... For me....this is the powerful message behind this novel.. A year later...Robert Blumenthal's review had me get movin already..., Other terrific reviews from Pamela, Diane S, Karen, and many more!!!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Angela M

    I loved Kallos' other books and there was no doubt in my mind when I read the description that this would be any different. There is something about her stories and her characters and her writing that appeal to me and I find it difficult to describe just what it is that gets to me . Maybe it's the vulnerability of the characters, their sadness, and how she makes you root for them and how there is the feeling of hope when you don't think it's possible . This one has a bit of the quirkiness of Sin I loved Kallos' other books and there was no doubt in my mind when I read the description that this would be any different. There is something about her stories and her characters and her writing that appeal to me and I find it difficult to describe just what it is that gets to me . Maybe it's the vulnerability of the characters, their sadness, and how she makes you root for them and how there is the feeling of hope when you don't think it's possible . This one has a bit of the quirkiness of Sing Them Home and the beautiful way people connect and touch each other's lives that I found in Broken for You. 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 .

  3. 4 out of 5

    Cathrine ☯️

    3★ Whew, this one was a book-full. Although not without its merits, I struggled to keep reading and finish. The impacts of an autistic child on a marriage and family, as well as the Palmer method of cursive handwriting are part of my personal history so I was initially interested and intrigued. But it was so ambitious that my eyeballs were looping by the end—TooMuchInformation. My thoughts were so jumbled I found it necessary to read a few professional reviews in order to give clarity to my issues 3★ Whew, this one was a book-full. Although not without its merits, I struggled to keep reading and finish. The impacts of an autistic child on a marriage and family, as well as the Palmer method of cursive handwriting are part of my personal history so I was initially interested and intrigued. But it was so ambitious that my eyeballs were looping by the end—TooMuchInformation. My thoughts were so jumbled I found it necessary to read a few professional reviews in order to give clarity to my issues with it. Allow me to share a couple from Kirkus Reviews https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-re... which, for me at least, sums it up pretty well. But I'm wondering, is it copacetic to do so? If not, I plead TemporarilyScrambledBrain. “Kallos...delivers an abundance of ideas, history, and sympathetic observations…but the welter of topics—language and storytelling, spiritual belief, artistic expression, guilt, affliction, and much more—is a challenge. Her solution is a splintered narrative that comes at both past and present from multiple angles…Although touchingly humane and impressive in scope, this novel is undermined by some lapses in judgment and its excessive ambition.”

  4. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Wonderful, wonderful story but it takes a bit of patience. The story unravels at a slow pace and in small increments. It is mainly the story of Charlie Marlow, now a middle aged divorced man, who is the father of Cory, who was normal until he was three and than lost all powers of speech. He is also the father of Emmy to whom he is always writing letters. The book is narrated by a few people but mostly Charlie and it jumps around from his youth, learning the Palmer method of writing with its crea Wonderful, wonderful story but it takes a bit of patience. The story unravels at a slow pace and in small increments. It is mainly the story of Charlie Marlow, now a middle aged divorced man, who is the father of Cory, who was normal until he was three and than lost all powers of speech. He is also the father of Emmy to whom he is always writing letters. The book is narrated by a few people but mostly Charlie and it jumps around from his youth, learning the Palmer method of writing with its creative loops, to Cory's birth and diagnosis, to the present day when he is a Language Arts teacher and somewhat at loose ends. At the heart of the story is the importance of language and the many different ways we have of communicating. Postcards, to letter writing, to the methods used when one is not capable of speech. Cory and the way he has of communicating his needs or wants, and at last a Nun, who now has Alzheimers and often lives in the past.Her story is wonderful and sad, integral to the storyline. An event at the end was a shocker to me and yes I was a bit teary eyed. The cover is designed brilliantly and the meaning is found within the story. Wonderful writing, and I loved the way the author tied everything together at the end. Some great characters it is hard not to lose your heart to and I embraced them fully. Amazing story. ARC from publisher.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Was kind of slow moving, but it is a great story. This is about a family and how the raising of an autistic boy effects the marriage/family..this also deals a lot with the father( Charles) growing up years and how it has also affected his life. Sad and yet tender.., very moving

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kels

    This may be a great story, but I just could not get into the text. The writing is heavy-handed and pretentious to the point where it is beyond distracting. It actually made my head hurt. DNF at page 15.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Joleigh

    As an English teacher who taught inclusion classes with special needs students including Autism and a mother who has questioned her choices in raising her daughter, I read this book with joy and pain. It is so very real. Thank you, Ms. Kallos. Once I started reading, I could not put this down. When I finished, yes, I just sat. I was drained. I am one of those people who sit throughout the credits of a movie to honor all who were a part its creation and I read acknowledgements in books for the sa As an English teacher who taught inclusion classes with special needs students including Autism and a mother who has questioned her choices in raising her daughter, I read this book with joy and pain. It is so very real. Thank you, Ms. Kallos. Once I started reading, I could not put this down. When I finished, yes, I just sat. I was drained. I am one of those people who sit throughout the credits of a movie to honor all who were a part its creation and I read acknowledgements in books for the same reason!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Robert Blumenthal

    I have to admit that one of the reasons that I enjoyed this book so much is that it basically took place in my neighborhood (my own backyard, so to speak). It is essentially the story of an educated, literate man coming to terms with connecting to his now 21-year-old highly autistic son. Interweaving a traumatic incident from the past that also involved a disabled child, the author deftly creates a tale with several questions needing to be answered. It all revolves around coping with disabled ch I have to admit that one of the reasons that I enjoyed this book so much is that it basically took place in my neighborhood (my own backyard, so to speak). It is essentially the story of an educated, literate man coming to terms with connecting to his now 21-year-old highly autistic son. Interweaving a traumatic incident from the past that also involved a disabled child, the author deftly creates a tale with several questions needing to be answered. It all revolves around coping with disabled children and the struggle of families to cope with the hardships and realities of care giving. With much humor and pathos, the story comes to a satisfying and emotionally rich conclusion. There is a somewhat startling surprise thrown in, which would have been more surprising to me if it hadn't been utilized in several other books that I have read. However, it fits nicely into the overall scheme of the narrative and helps to provide greater insight into the main character. This was a compelling and overall satisfying read--even if you don't live in Northeast Seattle.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    ***** literary Brilliance! ***** "My feeling: it's never too late to try a new approach to learning anything, and just because one has no expectation doesn't mean one has no hope." LANGUAGE ARTS: A novel as intelligent as it is emotionally satisfying and realistic; encompassing complexities between various definitions/models of relationships, autism, grief, communication, families, and the power of words upon a written page. The intriguing way in which Kallos crafted this story - fusing it togeth ***** literary Brilliance! ***** "My feeling: it's never too late to try a new approach to learning anything, and just because one has no expectation doesn't mean one has no hope." LANGUAGE ARTS: A novel as intelligent as it is emotionally satisfying and realistic; encompassing complexities between various definitions/models of relationships, autism, grief, communication, families, and the power of words upon a written page. The intriguing way in which Kallos crafted this story - fusing it together with flashback vignettes, time-sequencing, and altering narratives - is beautifully bittersweet, in reverse; a peeling back of years and years of tangled denial and disillusion to resurrect hope, forgiveness, and understanding. "Memory - uncorrected, uncorroborated, and (by its very nature) unreliable - is what allows us to retroactively create the blueprints of our lives, because it is often impossible to make sense of our lives when we're inside them when the narratives are still unfolding." Major or minor, each finely crafted character - Charles, Allie, Giorgia, Romy, Emily, Dana - brought a surreal richness to this extraordinary story. Their mannerisms, actions, personality quirks, abilities, nuances, and interactions, along with key phrasing and wording evoked subtle clues hinting that something deeper, more profound, spiritually compelling, and/or life affirming was at play here. "For within the mind, of course travelers are free -- movement continues, unencumbered; views remain panoramic; all destinations are possible. We can tell ourselves whatever stories we choose." Wow! Talk about a twist - that I won't reveal..... No SPOILERS. But it's an epiphany within an epiphany! I had to go back to the beginning and take a second look. "God sees everything. It is not for the showy that He opens the gates of heaven, nor for the clamorous. It is for the small and resolute; the meek, the humble, the patient, the silent." "Maybe he was put on this planet as a miracle-in-reverse, a punch line for a joke that nobody gets but God, a test for the rest of us, something to interpret, translate, decode. A mystery of faith - Can you accept never knowing? Can you love without condition? " Five ***** Literary-Brilliant, Heartfelt, Hopeful, Emotionally-Rich ***** Stars

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Watkins

    The art of communication is the major theme of LANGUAGE ARTS and this story uses all the variations of it whether spoken nuances and innuendos, written assumptions and dissonance, or the fractured and difficult ways of being known that those with dementia and autism experience. This is a story of a marriage, of a father and son, and of a man's childhood that shapes his life. Charles Marlow's fourth grade year was pivotal one and sets a course in ways he couldn't anticipate. This is a book to puz The art of communication is the major theme of LANGUAGE ARTS and this story uses all the variations of it whether spoken nuances and innuendos, written assumptions and dissonance, or the fractured and difficult ways of being known that those with dementia and autism experience. This is a story of a marriage, of a father and son, and of a man's childhood that shapes his life. Charles Marlow's fourth grade year was pivotal one and sets a course in ways he couldn't anticipate. This is a book to puzzle over, relax into, and not worry if parts rattle you. Everything comes clear in the end and you'll be satisfied and in awe when you're finished.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    This is one of those books that reminds me of why I love to read. Starting with present day, the narrative advances through three time frames as Charles Marlow goes through boxes in his empty house, unsure whether to put certain items in "save" "sell" or "discard" bins. The Seattle rain drums on the window, and the current time passes enhanced by his recollections of two earlier times -- in the early 1960s right after the world fair, and in the 1990s, when the book charts his early marriage and This is one of those books that reminds me of why I love to read. Starting with present day, the narrative advances through three time frames as Charles Marlow goes through boxes in his empty house, unsure whether to put certain items in "save" "sell" or "discard" bins. The Seattle rain drums on the window, and the current time passes enhanced by his recollections of two earlier times -- in the early 1960s right after the world fair, and in the 1990s, when the book charts his early marriage and life with his Alpha Wife, Alison. A fierce woman of extreme tenacity. Included is a letter correspondence with his daughter, Emmy. The family is rounded out by their older child, Cody, who has been diagnosed as low on the autism scale, and Charles's conflicted emotions enhanced by his feelings of guilt and remorse cause him to reflect on these watershed moments in his life. Ironic, that he is a teacher of "language arts" at a private school, when his son has no power of speech. That reminded me somewhat of Mr. Holland's Opus, wherein a music teacher's only child is deaf. The times are beautifully realized, as is the setting of Seattle.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    I found LANGUAGE ARTS to be stunning and heartbreaking. It’s a story of a man, Charles Marlow, reflecting on his life: his childhood, his marriage, his parenthood, his flaws, and his heartbreak. It sounds bleak, but it’s not. When Charles reflects upon his childhood with his best friend, Donnie Bothwell, one cannot help but smile and laugh. Also, his memories of “Brax the Ax” Mrs. Eloise Braxton (Charles fourth-grade teacher) are hilarious. While Charles’s fourth grade year had a profound impact I found LANGUAGE ARTS to be stunning and heartbreaking. It’s a story of a man, Charles Marlow, reflecting on his life: his childhood, his marriage, his parenthood, his flaws, and his heartbreak. It sounds bleak, but it’s not. When Charles reflects upon his childhood with his best friend, Donnie Bothwell, one cannot help but smile and laugh. Also, his memories of “Brax the Ax” Mrs. Eloise Braxton (Charles fourth-grade teacher) are hilarious. While Charles’s fourth grade year had a profound impact on him, and much is sad, when he reads his creative story aloud to the class is a special fun highlight of the novel. How do authors come up with these ideas?? What is heartbreaking is that Charles and his wife Alison have a child, Cody, who is diagnosed to be on the autism spectrum. The author, Stephanie Kallos, does a fabulous job showing the magnitude of how having a special needs child affects a marriage. After reading this, I have only the highest praise to those parents of such children who have managed to keep their marriages intact. I have true sympathy and compassion for those who grew separate. Kallos shows how coping mechanisms, while both redeeming, can be at odds and cause conflict in a marriage. Kallos uses linguistics interestingly throughout the book. I also enjoyed her inclusion of details regarding the Palmer Method of writing (which was a highlight in 4th grade Charles’s life). Both are intentionally used for relevance. I enjoy novels that provide glimpses in marriages. What I especially enjoy are stories that provide me with awareness into issues I have not previously considered, such as the impact of issues in marriages. I’ve read other novels regarding autistic characters. This is the best novel I’ve read that provides a peek into some of the heart wrenching affects onto a parent and a marriage.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Irene

    Incredibly beautiful and moving!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Susan (aka Just My Op)

    “When my brother Cody was about two years old and for reasons our baffled parents were never able to fathom, the word God entered his vocabulary.” Because I loved the author's novels Broken for You and Sing Them Home, I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book. It grabbed me from the first sentence and kept holding on until the last page. Ms. Kallos writes about ordinary people who are perhaps not quite as ordinary as one would hope, but quite beautiful in their own ways. Because I don't like to “When my brother Cody was about two years old and for reasons our baffled parents were never able to fathom, the word God entered his vocabulary.” Because I loved the author's novels Broken for You and Sing Them Home, I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book. It grabbed me from the first sentence and kept holding on until the last page. Ms. Kallos writes about ordinary people who are perhaps not quite as ordinary as one would hope, but quite beautiful in their own ways. Because I don't like to know too much of a story before I begin reading a book and because I chose this one based on the author alone, I did not know how Cody and his not-quite-normality was such a large part of the book, but I appreciated it. Part is written in third person with a lesser amount in first person by daughter Emily. Charles, a student who was revered by his teacher for his aptitude for the Palmer Method of handwriting, now has a family and writes frequently to his daughter. The letters are all the more poignant for what we learn of Emily later in the book. Yes, the book does move slowly. Yes, the subject has been done and overdone. And I still absolutely loved this novel. It is not a “shake you by the neck until your teeth rattle” kind of story. It is gentler and as much about the characters as it is about the situations in which they find themselves. It is about relationships, trying to do the right thing even if you came from a situation that was all wrong. The art of handwriting, the endless loops, and then the Language Arts, are thematic and help tie all together. There are references to times that I remember too well, and this book and its characters caused me both sympathy and empathy. This book makes me want to see what this author comes up with next. I doubt that I will be disappointed. I was given an advance reader's copy of this book for review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bookphile

    Language Arts is one of those slow-moving books that proceeds at a sedate pace, allowing the story to unfold in its own time. It's a sad, moving, sometimes lovely story about intersecting lives, a page-turner if you enjoy books that delve a lot into human psychology. If you're looking for something action-packed, this book isn't it, though, and I think that may be part of why I didn't like it as much as I otherwise might have. It's not so much that I wanted explosions or anything of the sort, bu Language Arts is one of those slow-moving books that proceeds at a sedate pace, allowing the story to unfold in its own time. It's a sad, moving, sometimes lovely story about intersecting lives, a page-turner if you enjoy books that delve a lot into human psychology. If you're looking for something action-packed, this book isn't it, though, and I think that may be part of why I didn't like it as much as I otherwise might have. It's not so much that I wanted explosions or anything of the sort, but that at times I felt like there was a general inertia to the novel. It also took a couple of unexpected turns that I wasn't quite sure how I felt about. Some spoilers to follow. As a character, I both liked and disliked Charles Marlow, but I think that might have been part of the point. He's an introverted, insular character, and at times that becomes a bit frustrating. He seemed to suffer from a sort of torpor that was understandable at times but that prevented him from progressing as much as a character as I would have liked him to have done. I do think he develops over the course of the narrative, and there are some key events that mark his life, but I'm not sure I think that the Charles at the end of the book is all that different from the Charles at the end. One thing that didn't always work for me was the construction of the novel. It's mostly told from what feels like a somewhat distant perspective on Charles, like a movie camera hovering above his shoulder. It doesn't make the book feel cold, but it gives it a sort of analytical tone. Every so often, though, the book switches to another character, most frequently Sister Giorgia, but sometimes in a voice that seems to be Emmy, though I felt this was very unclear. I don't mind when books shift perspectives, but I'm not a fan of when they do so only to allow other characters the occasional interjection. Sometimes it felt too much like exposition here, a way to explain more of Charles's motivations in a manner that the Charles-centered portions wouldn't allow. This isn't the case with Sister Giorgia's passages, which I did think were interesting in their own right, even if I felt like I was missing a lot because I can't read Italian. Instead, it happened mainly with the mystery voice, and I didn't much care for it. Another thing that bothered me were the twists that occur near the end of the book. I had a general sense of dread with regard to Dana because I just knew from the beginning that something bad was going to happen there. This event didn't sit entirely right with me, probably because it felt more like something that happened to illustrate some aspect of Charles's character than like something that happened to Dana. I guess I felt like it was somewhat contrived, which made it less effective for me. The second twist worked better for me, though it did make me see Charles in a very different light, and it also gave me a new perspective on Alison. Still, it felt a little too "gotcha" to me, like a clever trick was being played on the reader, and it left me ambivalent. As for Alison, I was never quite sure what to make of her character. I understood and could feel her desperation as a mother determined to believe that it was possible for her son to recover, but other times she seemed deluded. I thought she was especially annoying when she brushed off Charles's concerns. There's an episode later in the book in which I felt Alison was more concerned with her own ideas about how Cody ought to behave than she was with what was best for Cody, and that made it hard for me to like her. Then again, I didn't always feel like Charles was reliable as there seemed to be a hidden side to him that made me wonder if his view wasn't rather skewed as well. All in all, I did find this book absorbing and the writing is very lovely in places, but I think maybe it points toward a tendency that I sometimes see in literary fiction, that of making everything rather melodramatic. Sure, genre fiction does this quite frequently too, but sometimes I think literary fiction is so concerned with being "art" that it goes place it doesn't really need to go. That seemed to have been the case here. There's a lot to like about this book, but some touches ended up making it come across as a little too over-the-top.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Beverly

    Language Arts was so good that even with two plotting quibbles, I happily give it my rare five stars. Going in, the book had all the elements that might attract a reader like me--anything that takes place in a school, the strains put on a family/marriage when one child is somewhere on the spectrum, and some exploration of how things used to be Before that made the main characters who they are during the unfolding plot. Language Arts developed in loops. It seems totally original to me to use the P Language Arts was so good that even with two plotting quibbles, I happily give it my rare five stars. Going in, the book had all the elements that might attract a reader like me--anything that takes place in a school, the strains put on a family/marriage when one child is somewhere on the spectrum, and some exploration of how things used to be Before that made the main characters who they are during the unfolding plot. Language Arts developed in loops. It seems totally original to me to use the Palmer method of penmanship as a framework for the narrative. That might sound comical, but the main character, Charles Marlow, a middling student as a boy, was a whiz bang star when introduced to cursive. This leitmotif circled the plot in heartbreaking ways. The quibbles are these: using the unpacking of boxes long bundled in the crawl space to spark the past, but it did provide a way in to memories that were as vivid as the moment. The second is the role of the Marlow's second child, Emmy. First child, Cody, is autistic and must eventually live in a care facility. The Marlows lived in a 'storybook house' and the story takes looped turns into the past, touching on this, grazing by that, so that by the end some of the script is re-written, written over, or starts all over again. I'm avoiding spoilers. I know that the image of a small boy in a white suit in the days before Special Ed, brought to life a fourth grader from Charlie's past who will stay with me. So will dry ramen noodles, a Life Magazine that featured Janet Leigh wearing many fezzes, a tag sale, and a senior art project at the private school where Charles now teaches. An Italian nun turns up, a former teacher, who now must live in the same place as Cody. She, too, adjusts her life script as needed to accommodate present circumstances; she also loves a respectable pen and good penmanship. Circle of life, and all that. What a good book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Candice

    Another excellent book from the author of Broken for You I had a bit of difficulty in getting into this one but after a fairly slow start I was hooked. The book was also personal to me on a couple of levels. Charles Marlow's best friend moved away the summer before fourth grade leaving Charles to struggle to fit in by himself that year. My best friend, Jo-Ellen, moved away at the end of 8th grade leaving me to stumble into high school friendless and it was horrible. Charles came upon a stack of Another excellent book from the author of Broken for You I had a bit of difficulty in getting into this one but after a fairly slow start I was hooked. The book was also personal to me on a couple of levels. Charles Marlow's best friend moved away the summer before fourth grade leaving Charles to struggle to fit in by himself that year. My best friend, Jo-Ellen, moved away at the end of 8th grade leaving me to stumble into high school friendless and it was horrible. Charles came upon a stack of old Life magazines and became obsessed with one particular issue, the issue about the drug thalidomide and its effect on babies. I clearly remember that issue and how it affected me, a young teenager, reading about these darling children born with such deformities. The actual story and the way it was told is captivating as well. The book skips around from the present where Charles and his ex-wife are dealing with their autistic son Cody's aging out of state care; Charles's fourth grade year where he mastered the Palmer method of handwriting; a bit of narration by Charles's daughter Emmy; and letters that Charles writes to Emmy who is in her first year of college. The strands weave together well and make for a story of hope.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Wendy Bunnell

    I had mixed feelings about this book both during and after reading it. I still can’t decide if I “like” it or would recommend it to people, but I don’t think that it was a waste of my time to read it. I was initially drawn to it as I seek out books about autism because I have an autistic son and I’m interested in other people’s interpretation of what that means for that person and their family. I have three children, and both sons have rather material health issues, as my youngest son has cystic I had mixed feelings about this book both during and after reading it. I still can’t decide if I “like” it or would recommend it to people, but I don’t think that it was a waste of my time to read it. I was initially drawn to it as I seek out books about autism because I have an autistic son and I’m interested in other people’s interpretation of what that means for that person and their family. I have three children, and both sons have rather material health issues, as my youngest son has cystic fibrosis. Fortunately my son with autism is high functioning, has great verbal skills (talks all the time and has a huge vocabulary), but most of his conservations are solely about Minecraft, LEGOs or Harry Potter or other areas of huge fascination, to the exclusion of the rest of the world. I know that we are blessed with the high level of function that he has, and books like this with a character like Cody make me appreciate that all the more. I’m particularly thankful that my son, who also makes interesting wardrobe choices, is much more like Dana than Cody. The most frustrating thing about the book was the protagonist, Charlie Marlow. I was interested in the glimpses from his childhood, and also his clumsy courtship with Alison. I was happy to finally hear his award winning book from his childhood, and the impact that book had on his family. I just wish that Charlie would have grown up and taken more responsibility, but I guess Alison should have known that stepping up and being responsible wasn’t his strong point when she met him and he was content to be a pot smoking bartender. She expected more, and demanded more, but he didn’t step up, at least in her estimation. And as a result, Charlie is a sad sack who spends entire weekends drinking wine out of a china tea set in the crawl space of his house. Find a charity to volunteer for, already. Sheesh. I was reminded of the drudgery that was the Palmer Handwriting Method, and its insistence on bizarre looking capitol letter “Q” which looked like loopy numeral “2” instead. I never adopted that particular Palmer affectation, even though I’m an odd bird who still writes things in cursive every day. And even though we eventually got to the connection between Sister Georgia and Charlie through Dana, I don’t think that paltry payoff was worth all the excruciating pace of the plot in reading about Sister Georgia, but then, I was interested in a book about autism, not dementia. I’ve already read Still Alice , thanks very much. So yes, it wasn’t a logical leap for this connection to occur, but I thought it was hardly worth the effort. I wasn’t that shocked by the big twist, as it was hinted at every time we saw Alison and saw her single-minded focus on Cody. I thought it just made Charlie that much more pathetic, and dragged me down. I don’t want to wallow. I want to soar. This book didn’t make me soar. Or sore either (homophone humor), but in any event, I felt let down by the book even though it had interesting component parts.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

    I'm here to prove once again how hard it is to speak--or write--about a book we love. I've listened to all Kallos's book, all beautifully read by Tavia Gilbert, and it's Gilbert's reading that has taken this listening experience to another level for me. Her performance is seductive--spot on characters, perfect inflections, beautiful singing. I hope Kallos writes more and that she never considers another narrator. Since the main character is Charles Marlow, one might expect a male narrator, but I I'm here to prove once again how hard it is to speak--or write--about a book we love. I've listened to all Kallos's book, all beautifully read by Tavia Gilbert, and it's Gilbert's reading that has taken this listening experience to another level for me. Her performance is seductive--spot on characters, perfect inflections, beautiful singing. I hope Kallos writes more and that she never considers another narrator. Since the main character is Charles Marlow, one might expect a male narrator, but I never once questioned his voice. We hear mostly from him and his ex-wife Alison, and we get his story and a bit of hers through flashbacks. They have an autistic son in a special school and a college-bound daughter Emmy. Multiple plot threads and time lines weave through the story, with all the character subtly linked. Secrets from the past are slowly unveiled, and there's an amazing plot twist near the end, but really it's a quiet story about characters and about communication. The pace is unhurried, the characters vividly drawn, the story line layered and domestic, the style non-linear and complicated by multiple points of view, the tone heart wrenching and heartwarming. And moving. A lovely book--but listen to it if you have a chance.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Having just finished reading Language Arts, I am emotionally stunned and find it hard to put the power of this book into words. What I can tell you is I literally wept at the ending of this book. Big, warm tears. And I spent the last couple of chapters in a perpetual state of goosebumps - a sure sign of witnessing "truth". There are some passages in this book that are pure brilliance - and they shine and glitter throughout the writing. But to create a book that can bring one to tears? What can I Having just finished reading Language Arts, I am emotionally stunned and find it hard to put the power of this book into words. What I can tell you is I literally wept at the ending of this book. Big, warm tears. And I spent the last couple of chapters in a perpetual state of goosebumps - a sure sign of witnessing "truth". There are some passages in this book that are pure brilliance - and they shine and glitter throughout the writing. But to create a book that can bring one to tears? What can I say - it is just a remarkable gift. The story moves slowly at first, but I believe purposefully so. By the end of the book, I felt so close to these characters, two of whom (father and son) grow and evolve in such a lovely way. Toward the end of the book, there were some surprises that I would never have imagined were coming. Don't you just love to read a book that makes you sit up and say, "wow!"?

  21. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Stephanie Kallos' sophomore effort is extraordinary. Easily as good as Broken for You, maybe even better. The central metaphorical device, the Palmer Method of handwriting, loops (I use that word deliberately) throughout this complicated, surprising story. No one will read this book and walk away untouched. It is an onion of a story, each chapter peeling away to reveal the unexpected. Like an onion, it may cause tears.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ellen Taylor

    Wow! I love how Stephanie Kallos writes! From the mosaic imagery in her first novel, Broken For You, to the collage of images and experiences of this grief-stricken father and language teacher, she melds her characters into fallible, authentic people struggling to give their best with images of artistic endeavors that paint a canvas of despair tinged with hope. Recommend this to readers who love strong character development and plot twists and word play! Can't wait for her next novel!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Morgan

    Read this for my PEO bookclub. Unfortunately, life got in the way and I not only didn't make it to the group discussion, but I didn't finish it on time. I really need to find someone to talk with about this book. It was wonderful. I will read it again. And I really DO want to discuss it with someone, ANYONE. There are two characters central to the story who are disabled. Charles, the main character, has a young adult son who is autistic, and was friends in elementary school with an intellectually Read this for my PEO bookclub. Unfortunately, life got in the way and I not only didn't make it to the group discussion, but I didn't finish it on time. I really need to find someone to talk with about this book. It was wonderful. I will read it again. And I really DO want to discuss it with someone, ANYONE. There are two characters central to the story who are disabled. Charles, the main character, has a young adult son who is autistic, and was friends in elementary school with an intellectually disabled boy. As the parent of a young adult with Down Syndrome, I am acutely sensitive to the portrayal of intellectual disabilities in literature. Ms Kallos handles the IDD characters with a respect and honesty that I often find lacking in books with challenged characters. She doesn't shy away from the difficulty facing families who love and care for disabled children. But she also captures the love truthfully, never maudlin.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kelley Pursell

    This book is so engrossing & devastating.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nathan

    I had initially rated this four stars. Five stars from me tends to mean it was an emotional home run. I connected with this book just fine, but what bumped it to five stars for me was the narrative and stylistic structure. It's a trapeze act. All of the elements of fiction I care about most - character, voice, theme, language...it's all there, working together to make this book succeed. It does. Stephanie Kallos is a very talented writer.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I kept reading this frustrating novel because of its potential. I was interested in Charles and his life - particularly his relationship with his ex-wife and son. But Kallos weighted the novel so heavily on his mostly mundane 4th grade experiences that the novel collapsed. The action kept swerving and detouring and jumping around and it just didn't come together. I did appreciate the ambitious attempt and look forward to the author's next novel.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Annette

    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, somet 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.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ksenija

    Tempting premise: a high school Language Arts teacher living through a difficult family transition. I loved the passages on language, writing assignments, some funny student examples-- totally rung true. I shared a passage with my advanced writing seminar kids, about how words end up in the dictionary. But I got disinterested in the last 1/3, where a traumatic childhood memory that has been soooo heavily foreshadowed finally gets explained. I'm no fan of the heavy-handed hinting that seems almos Tempting premise: a high school Language Arts teacher living through a difficult family transition. I loved the passages on language, writing assignments, some funny student examples-- totally rung true. I shared a passage with my advanced writing seminar kids, about how words end up in the dictionary. But I got disinterested in the last 1/3, where a traumatic childhood memory that has been soooo heavily foreshadowed finally gets explained. I'm no fan of the heavy-handed hinting that seems almost gimmicky-- the "Keep reading me! It'll be worth it!" that rarely makes it so. At the end there was a flurry of plot and even a weird twist that felt unnecessary. Ultimately, it's the descriptive language and thoughtful explorations of words that stuck with me.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    This novel spoke to me on so many levels-the writing is lovely, the pace slow but not in a "come on! what's going to happen next!?!" way. Because, we the reader think we know exactly where the story is going, because it reflects back on itself, we are lulled into the main character's little life moments and then-zing-a surprise. Some of the surprises are small and minor and a careful reader might have seen them coming, but not all, and one is big and stuns. The ending will lift you up.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    I could not put this book down. Charles is a high school English teacher who struggles to maintain order in his life after his marriage fails and cope with his autistic son. He narrates through his early marriage and back to 4th grade flashbacks where he is haunted by a friendship. The theme of linguistics, penmanship, and communication are neatly woven throughout the novel. The characters come alive. Great read.

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