I love coming-of-age novels. They somehow manage to comfort me and make me believe in the goodness of the world. Yes they tend to do that. It has may be got to do with the fact that the protagonists are more human than the adults and have a perspective like no other. So it could be Holden Caulfield struggling with trying to make sense of the world or it could be Scout Finch who is trying very hard to hang on to the old life, as her world is falling apart.
And with this I begin the review of yet another beautifully told coming-of-age novel, “An Uncommon Education” by Elizabeth Percer. Naomi Feinstein is a young woman troubled by life. She is surrounded by a father with a weak heart (and so she decides to become a doctor), a mother who is depressed and is not interested in her and her best friend Teddy (and also her first love so to speak) suddenly departs from her life, making it more so miserable.
She tries dealing with the loneliness by running away from it. She is admitted to the college of her dreams – Wellesley College and hopes that life will change. But things do not. Naomi realizes that it will take some time for things to fall into place, but she is determined not to let others define her or her choices. She learns to save herself first through various means (the Shakespeare Club) and some of them actually work. Naomi’s happiness is soon compromised as she gets involved in a scandal and that is when she realizes the true meaning of life.
An Uncommon Education started off as a slow read for me, however once it grew on me I could let go of it. Percer is great at setting the style, the context and the elements of the story. We follow Naomi’s life from childhood through college and experience all her ups and downs with her and that is what sticks with you at the end of the novel. The fact that Elizabeth Percer can make you feel for Naomi through her words is a marvellous feat.
Elizabeth Percer writes with a striking clarity that may be at some point allows us to relate to the book at some level. You want to sit up and reach out to Naomi and let her know that things will be fine. At the same time, Naomi is the one who finds this out by living. By going through the proverbial rite-of-passage and by growing up to the realities that surround her life. This book is one of a kind. I highly recommend this novel. I would definitely re-read it later at some point.