Wednesday, May 16, 2012

An Uncommon Education by Elizabeth Percer

Naomi Feinstein is a precocious child. Gifted with a photographic memory and a natural curiosity, she vows early on that she will attend Wellesley College and become a cardiac surgeon, a goal she sets her heart on after her father suffers a near-fatal heart attack. Naomi is going to save people. But over the course of the years, she must confront the possibility that she may not be able to save those most important to her.

Naomi is greatly affected by those around her. Her father and his hopes and dreams for her, her mother and her frequent bouts of depression, her friends, Teddy and Jun. In fact, each and every person in Naomi's life offers up something that becomes part of her "uncommon education." 

Of course Naomi's particular education is not uncommon at all. We are all shaped by our individual experiences. All of Naomi's experiences become part of her growth, changing her in ways that she could never have expected or predicted when she initially set her sights on Wellesley and a career in cardiac surgery.

I'm not so far removed from college that I can't recall feeling exactly the same as Naomi. Unlike her, I had no ultimate goal upon arriving on campus as a freshman. I find it hard to believe that many of us really do. I changed majors my second semester and never looked back. In the end though, even after coming up with a goal, my plans were changed yet again.

What I think Elizabeth Percer has done here is show the arc of one life. An arc that many of us can sympathize with, having experienced something similar ourselves: friends made and lost through time, family issues, and a deep look at ourselves and what we want out of life.

As a narrator, I found Naomi extremely appealing. She's bright, interesting, and charming. I will admit that I generally prefer more conflict to liven up a coming of age story, but I wouldn't change a thing about An Uncommon Education. Percer's character-driven debut was a wonderful change of pace for my reading week. 


As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

I read this book and one other novel set in academia one weekend when I was high on cold medicine, so the books conflate somewhat in my mind. But I do recall liking this one in a way that wasn't directly related to said cold medicine.

Becky LeJeune said...

I know! I read your post and had to have both books. I have YEAR OF THE GADFLY on my bedside table right now and can't wait to get to it. No cold medicine aided in my reading :)