Ms. Hempel Chronicles by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum

I bought this book after Sarah Shun-lien Bynum was named one of the top 20 Under 40 authors by The New Yorker. But, prior to purchasing it, I added it to my TBR after J. Franz told me to read it. Yep, sometimes I'm just that susceptible to the subtle yet incredibly transparent world of book marketing. But, however I came about it I'm glad I did because this book is delightful.

This is a book that examines the business of growing up: the hesitation, the uncertainty, the awkwardness and the idea that the growing up doesn't stop even after you are labeled an adult. Ms. Hempel Chronicles also explores the complications of adulthood and a longing to return to a simpler time - that of one's childhood. The overall tone is positive, which is a refreshing departure from what I have been reading lately. Bynum has a gift for relating peculiar moments and youthful realizations in a humorous and pleasant way.
How bizarre. That person, and the person she was now? They wouldn't even be friends.
Ms. Hempel Chronicles is structured in eight stories that alternate between Ms. Hempel's own childhood and the stories from her classroom as an English teacher in her mid 20's. The stories each relate and connect to one another to unravel the curious tendencies and peculiar situations of one's youth. Bynum also depicts the unpredictable moments that are associated with teaching middle school, as well as the astuteness and composure that is necessary to hold down such a job.

If you are looking for a read that isn't too heavy, but is still smart and entertaining, I'd recommended this.

Publisher: Mariner Books, 2008


  1. I read this last year and can't really remember anything at all about it. I guess I wasn't as excited about it as you were!

  2. I think the thing with this book was a "right time right book" kind of thing. If I weren't in the same mindset I could have easily skimmed it and forgotten it.

  3. I love the quote you included! And I'm not sure what it is but there is something about this premise and the cover that makes me so interested to track it down and take a look!

  4. I've never heard of this book, but I have to say I'm intrigued. I think I'm going to track this one down.