Book Club Banter'Early Decision' by Lacy Crawford
One of the best things about working in a book store has always been reading the advanced copies of books that are sent to us by publishers before they are released. Luckily, my business partner and I usually have very different tastes in books, so we rarely argue over who reads what. There are always books that no one wants to read and sometimes we later realize that we missed a treasure. (One should never judge a book by its cover!)
Last summer I picked up an advanced copy of "Early Decision," intrigued by the previous job of the author. Crawford had been worked for fifteen years as what is described as “a highly discreet independent college admissions counselor.”
Basically, the rich and powerful parents of teenagers from big cities across the country hired Crawford to coach their kids in writing essays for college applications in hopes of getting their kids in the most prestigious schools. And this is also the story of the book’s central character, Anne.
Anne was an English major and grad student who never finished her dissertation. Exactly how she ended up with such an unusual job, I don’t recall. She is down to earth and seems to care deeply about her students and by that I means she is not just concerned about getting kids into Ivy League schools. She has her own issues — what’s the deal with her boyfriend and what “should” she be doing with her life.
That’s the backdrop for the novel that tells the stories of five high school students and their families. The families love them and very much want the best for them, and feel very strongly that it all hinges on the right school. Much of the character development comes through the drafts of the essays of the students as they work on their applications. While the parental goals are getting into the preferred college, Anne’s goal for her students is that they discover their own interests and express their own thoughts in the college essays.
This is Crawford’s debut novel and it goes beyond being just another good read. It shines the light on some important questions about how we make our way through life. Is there just one path? Can one decision determine our ultimate success or failure? Do we get other chances along the way?
Although I live in a completely different world than the parents in this novel, as the parent of a teenager, I do understand wanting the very best for your child. I also understand the struggle between wanting to do everything in your power to help your child and the need to let your child find their way. This book is about much more than getting into college, it’s about getting on with life.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION:
Anne has her own struggles with the direction in which her life is going. Have you ever faced a time when you struggled to find your path, or wondered if you had made the right decision? Was there another person who was helpful in your process of making choices.
How did you feel about the priorities of the parents in the novel? What about the times a parent has an “urgent” question or concern? Did you empathize with them? Did it ever make you laugh?
Sadie writes about a debate between Expectation and Imagination. Who do you think would win that debate? Do you agree or disagree with her conclusion?
BOOK CLUB TIP: Have reasonable expectations. Don’t expect everyone else to get excited about an 800 page book just because you are. It’s usually wise to agree on the general length and cost of a book. Many clubs agree to choose only paperbacks to make it more affordable. Also, make certain the book is currently available before committing to your choice. If the book is out of print, used copies are hard to come by and the library has only 2 on its shelf, you probably need to make another choice.