Uncommon Education, An: A Novel

( 2 )


Afraid of losing her parents at a young age, Naomi Feinstein prepares single-mindedly for a prestigious future as a doctor. But when her only friend and confidant abruptly departs from her life, Naomi isn't sure she will ever recover, even after a long-awaited acceptance letter to Wellesley arrives.

Yet Naomi soon learns that college isn't the bastion of solidarity and security she had imagined. Amid hundreds of other young women, she is ...

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An Uncommon Education

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Afraid of losing her parents at a young age, Naomi Feinstein prepares single-mindedly for a prestigious future as a doctor. But when her only friend and confidant abruptly departs from her life, Naomi isn't sure she will ever recover, even after a long-awaited acceptance letter to Wellesley arrives.

Yet Naomi soon learns that college isn't the bastion of solidarity and security she had imagined. Amid hundreds of other young women, she is consumed by loneliness—until the day she sees a girl fall into the freezing waters of a lake.

The event marks Naomi's introduction to Wellesley's oldest honor society, the mysterious Shakespeare Society, defined by secret rituals and filled with unconventional, passionate students. As Naomi immerses herself in this exciting and liberating world, her happiness is soon compromised by a scandal that brings devastating consequences. Naomi has always tried to save the ones she loves, but sometimes saving others is a matter of saving yourself.

An Uncommon Education is a compelling portrait of a quest for greatness and the grace of human limitations. Poignant and wise, it artfully captures the complicated ties of family, the bittersweet inevitability of loss, and the importance of learning to let go.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
“Enticing and shyly perceptive.”
New York Post
“Think Dead Poet’s Society or The Secret History.”
Hudson Valley News
“A fine novel and a young writer to watch.”
San Jose Mercury News
“A wistful debut novel by noted Bay Area poet.”
“Percer’s lyrical novel has much to offer.”
New York Journal of Books
“Elizabeth Percer relates the life story of Naomi Feinstein with beautifully scripted, lush prose drawing in the reader and providing an unobstructed view deep into the hearts of her characters. . . . Rich in history, steeped in family tradition, and full of emotion—a lesson in practiced elegance.”
J. Courtney Sullivan
“A moving and bittersweet coming-of-age story about love, loss, friendship, ambition, and the power of memory. This complex and satisfying tale introduces a cast of quirky, hilarious, intellectual young women, struggling to find their place in the world.”
Caroline Leavitt
“Eloquent, haunting and exquisitely written, Percer’s stunning debut finds surprising beauty in the broken places of our lives. Here, winning can’t mute pain, but love endures despite the odds, and the education of a remarkable young woman is as uncommonly original as this novel itself.”
Lauren Belfer
“Haunting and poignant, Elizabeth Percer’s coming-of-age novel portrays a bright young woman confronting her limits as she watches those she loves deal with illness and betrayal. Each turn of this elegiac debut revealed stark truths that left me both moved and astonished.”
Nicole Mones
“It’s impossible not to care about Naomi Feinstein . . . An Uncommon Education beautifully [brings] Naomi to the Bard (the play’s the thing), but also gives the reader something much rarer—a world, and a life, that seem real.”
“[Naomi demonstrates] how to make the kinds of choices that eventually lead to an uncommon but joy-filled life.”
Library Journal
Smart but a little anxious—her father, an émigré from Israel, suffers from poor health; her mother, who converted to Judaism, is distant and clinically depressed; and her best friend's mother disapproves of her—Naomi Feinstein has one ambition. She wants to attend Wellesley College, not far from the Boston suburb where she lives but a world away, a shining, splendid city where her intellect will unfold lushly like a flower. Yet when she finally arrives, she suddenly feels dislocated among the campus's glassy, glossy, relentlessly assured young women. Only slowly does she find herself again, as she joins the Shakespeare Society, whose members perform the Bard's plays and nurture complex relationships, and forges a special friendship with a former tennis rival. What really matures her is a terrible moment of betrayal and her determinedly reengaging with her parents, and it's astonishing to see how Naomi readjusts her self-image and emerges whole. VERDICT Three-time Pushcart nominee Percer offers an uncommonly good debut that's finely detailed and emotionally gripping while avoiding every pitfall of the standard coming-of-age tale. Highly recommended.—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062110978
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/8/2013
  • Series: P.S.
  • Pages: 342
  • Sales rank: 954,253
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Percer is a three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and has twice been honored by the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Foundation. She received a BA in English from Wellesley and a PhD in arts education from Stanford University, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship for the National Writing Project at UC Berkeley. She lives in California with her husband and three children. An Uncommon Education is her first novel.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 13, 2013

    Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings A hook in the s

    Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings

    A hook in the synopsis that involves a girl as she heads off to college and gets involved with a secret Shakespearean society and drama should ensue.  As the book started, I was confused as to the amount of pages that were devoted to her early childhood; towards the end I understood why that took such a precedence  but I was lost and wanting to get to the college years.  

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  • Posted January 8, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    An Uncommon Education is a coming-of-age story that follows Naom

    An Uncommon Education is a coming-of-age story that follows Naomi from early childhood to her adult years. Over the years, Naomi learns things about her family that she wonder might have been better left alone, she finds love in different people and in different forms, and she comes to terms with who she is and what she wants to do with her life.
    Naomi is a gifted child with a photographic memory. An ambitious child, she isn't satisfied with passing the days in blissful ignorance. She asks questions, hard questions for adults to answer given her young age. At the same time that her talent allows her to read and remember texts beyond her level, however, it isolates her from those around her, beliving her cursed or possessed. From childhood through college, she makes few true friends, and even then they all have their own secrets and she must watch those she care about leave her. She runs to leave her problems behind her, and she even finds some comfort in studying during her first year at Wellesley. Life moves on though, and she must learn to confront her deepest fears.
    The story is told in five parts, which I found interesting because of the significant role that the Shakespeare Society has on Naomi's life. There, she is able to free herself of the many burdens that she's placed on herself, giving her the freedom and space necessary to explore who she is as an individual and not who she thinks she must be. She makes friends that stay around through her college years and even into her adult life, she learns how to love and move on, and she learns about betrayal.
    I always wondered, growing up, about my mom's words that the college years would be the best years of my life. Was she right or wrong? I know believe that it is worth the experience. Even more than during the adolescent years, the college years are about discovering what we truly want in life, and it is when we really find our self identity. Away from her parents, Naomi is alone and cannot continue to let anyone else other than herself define her if she wants to survive. And it is at Wellesley that she breaks free of her limitations and finds her own form of happiness. I love this book and recommend it for readers looking for New Adult books, especially readers that lean towards more literary works.

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