THE CRAZY SCHOOL
BY CORNELIA READ
From the acclaimed author of A FIELD OF DARKNESS comes another compelling novel featuring the acerbic and memorable voice of ex-debutante Madeline Dare.
Madeline Dare has finally escaped rust-belt
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Cornelia Read knows old-school WASP culture firsthand, having been born into the tenth (and last) generation of her mother's family to live on Oyster Bay's Centre Island. She was subsequently raised near Big Sur by divorced hippie-renegade parents. Her childhood mentors included Sufis, surfers, single moms, Black Panthers, Ansel Adams, draft dodgers, striking farmworkers, and Henry Miller's toughest ping-pong rival.
At fifteen, Read returned east, attending boarding school and college on full scholarship. While in New York, she did time as a debutante at the Junior Assemblies, worming her way back into the Social Register following her expulsion when a regrettable tantrum on the part of her mother's boyfriend's wife landed them all on "Page Six" of the New York Post.
Today, her Bostonian Great-Grandmother Fabyan's Society of Mayflower Descendants membership parchment is proudly displayed at the back of Read's tiny linen closet in Berkeley, California. She continues to rebel against familial tradition by staying married to a lovely sane man who is gainfully employed. They have twin daughters, the younger of whom has severe autism.REVIEW:
Nestled in the lovely Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts is the prestigious Santangelo Academy that everyone is crazy about! Well, not quite! It is really a school for troubled teens so I wouldn't say anyone is hoping to be admitted. When Madeline Dare's husband's job doesn't work out, she has to take a job and finds one as a teacher at Santangelo Academy. The school does seem like it would not be the happiest place to work but it is a job. Founded by David Santangelo, it doesn't take Madeline long to figure out that something is just not right here..and she doesn't mean that it is because of the type of "problem" students the school attracts. Rather, she finds Dr. Santangelo to be more of the problem and he gives her a bad feeling whenever she is near him. In fact, some of the students she soon finds out may be the only ones who aren't a bit off. The rules and therapy sessions are tough on the students and the schedule it quite demanding, but not just for the students but for the teachers as well! If someone doesn't follow the rules, they are sent for punishment at a place known as "the farm".
When Madeline tries to question some of the procedures and the situation, she finds that she is in the minority of one as the other teachers actually turn on each other and will report another teacher in a heartbeat! In order for Madeline to survive at this job, she learns that it is easier to bond with some of the students. When two students get in trouble and the results are deadly, things get turned around and Madeline finds herself accused of being guilty and at fault.
Will Madeline just walk away from this? CAN she? How will she get out of this menacing place where she learns that even darker secrets exist? Told from Madeline's point of view author Cornelia Read does a wonderful job of drawing the reader in and causing some of us to even jump at shadows! The many plot twists keep the reader constantly guessing and never sure of what will happen next. With Ms. Read's excellent descriptive narrative, the reader will totally become immersed in the story as if the school were a real place and they were in it. I suggest reading with the lights on! This is the first book I have read that Cornelia Read has written but I hope it won't be the last!
Here is THE CRAZY SCHOOL's READING GROUP GUIDE:
1. Maddie is the only Santangelo Academy teacher who lives off campus. How does this affect her views of what is “normal”?
2. Wiesner tells Maddie she is “too whacked to maintain appropriate boundaries” and has issues with authority. Do you agree? Does anyone at Santangelo maintain “appropriate” boundaries?
3. Maddie claims she hates Mindy because she is so shallow. What does this assessment reveal about Maddie herself? How does the generally negative nature of Maddie’s worldview affect the outcome of this particular narrative?
4. Maddie wants to believe that Santangelo can “fix” her. What is broken in her life?
5. The school uses a lot of phrases such as “firing yourself ” and “doing a turnin.” Many groups use language to create a shared sense of identity. When can this be beneficial, and when can this be dangerous?
6. What are the author’s views on therapy, as expressed by Maddie? Do you agree with her?
7. Why does Maddie stay on as a teacher at Santangelo? Is it only about the paycheck for her?
8. While he never appears in the novel, Maddie’s father is discussed twice during the course of the story. What impact do you think his mental illness has had on her development and on her issues with “authority”?
9. What might be different about this novel if Dean had a steady job? What do you think of his attitude about drug testing—is he standing up for individual rights, or should he put down the bong and get over himself already?
10. Could Maddie have been a more effective advocate for her students if she’d played by the Santangelo rules? What would this have meant for Fay and Mooney, specifically? Should she have “done a turnin” with regard to their secret?
11. What impact has the advent of psychotherapeutic drugs such as Prozac had on the public perception of “talk therapy”?
12. Has the influence of such psychiatric authorities as Freud and Jung been diminished or enhanced by advances in our understanding of neurochemistry over the last two decades? Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
13. How do you think Maddie will respond when she hears about the events of the final chapter? Did what happened change your perception of Wiesner and Sitzman?
14. Is the final word of the book, uttered by Sitzman, significant? Does its use here tie in with the discussion of campus prohibitions against it in chapter one? How would the novel be impacted if there were no profanity used by any of its characters?
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