Carolyn Chute has been heralded as a passionate voice of the underclass, earning comparisons to William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Flannery O’Connor. Now, Chute returns to the unforgettable town of Egypt, Maine, and delivers a rousing, politically charged portrait of another group of lives on the margins of our society.
The School on Heart’s Content Road begins with the story of Mickey Gammon, a fifteen-year-old dropout who has been evicted from home by his half-brother. Alone, Mickey is introduced to the secretive world of the Settlement and its leader, a man known to many as the “The Prophet.” A rural cooperative in alternative energy, farm produce, and local goods, the Settlement is demonized by the media as a compound of sin, and its true nature remains foreign to outsiders. It is at the Settlement where Mickey’s life collides with that of another deserted child, six-year-old Jane – a cunning, beautiful girl of mixed race, whose mother is in jail on trumped up drug charges. “Secret Agent Jane” prowls the Settlement in her heart-shaped sunglasses, imagining that her childish plans to bring down the community will reunite her with her mother. As they struggle to adjust to their new, complex surrogate family, Mickey and Jane witness the mounting unrest within the Settlement’s ranks, which soon builds to a shocking and devastating crescendo.
Vehement and poetic, The School on Heart’s Content Road questions the nature of family, culture, and authority in an intensely diverse nation. It is an urgent plea from those who have been shoved to the fringes of society, but who refuse to be silenced.