THE WAY OF LESSONS
By: Michelle Schlicher
Published: March 14, 2019
Publisher: Michelle Schlicher
Imagine finding out that your child’s elementary school is closing at the end of the year. Try to explain to your child that the friends and teachers they have now will likely not be at their new school next year. This seems to be a common issue as funding for education and upkeep of older buildings requires school districts to make tough decisions. Even though this is a work of fiction, the story is all too familiar.
Schlicher begins with a school building bursting with pride over the memories it has cherished over the years and the number of students entering its doors. But there is also sadness, knowing its time is coming to an end. From there we meet a surprisingly large number of characters with some main ones that return. Each chapter is told from that character’s point of view and all of them have a connection to Easton Elementary. You meet teachers, students, a senator, some moms, a few druggies, and a janitor and yes, all their stories connect.
Luca is our main character who is a third grader at Easton Elementary. His life isn’t the greatest because his mom is an addict. He’s lucky to get supper, let alone have clean clothes to wear the next day to school. On the first day of school, he meets Xander, a fourth grader, and his life will be forever changed.
When the students, staff, and community find out that Easton Elementary will be closing, there is a ripple effect on the people most affected by it. The pride in their school and how everyone comes together to try to save it is inspiring. Even though it may not be enough, their cause gives them all an opportunity to reflect and connect with each other.
I was a bit overwhelmed at first with all the different character introductions, but once I realized I didn’t have to necessarily remember every single one because their time in the story was brief, I relaxed and focused on the main characters. Readers will sympathize with Luca and cheer when Xander, his family, and his longtime friend, Aron accept him into their lives. Schlicher brings a lot of issues to the story including drugs, parenting, post-partum depression, politics, poverty, and grief. It seems like a lot to work into one story, but she does it well. Readers become wrapped up in the lives of the characters and hope for resolutions to their problems. Unfortunately, not all the issues are resolved positively and there is great sadness in the story. But, giving readers a glimpse into a character’s life twenty years later, eases a bit of the pain felt near the end.
You can tell Schlicher has a great love for education and mentions the teachers that made an impact on her life in the acknowledgements. Her story offers hope, but realistic expectations when a community suffers and how people can support one another no matter what the outcome is.
Michelle Schlicher is an Iowa author. Check out her website, HERE.
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