Book Review: The Business of Children

Looking for a change of pace from academic reports and scholarly articles? Chloe Jon Paul, retired educator, has just released a novel detailing the experiences of four educators,  Vera Harriss, Deidre Fletcher, Mark Pettingill, and Stu Martel, over the course of  a single academic year.
What causes Vera, who is about to retire, to vent her anger during a Board of Education meeting with a speech that brings the audience to its feet? Why does Deidre leave the job she loves to become a corporate trainer down South? Then there is Mark, the perennial job hunter looking for a job with more prestige and pay. What compels Mark to turn down the perfect offer when it finally comes through? Stu, one of the most popular teachers in the school, struggles with a deep, dark secret that he can only share with Deidre. What causes Stu’s untimely death?

This novel is set in the fictional town of Blevins, Maine during the mid-1980s. Vera is a middle-aged, dowdy but dedicated teacher who has never been one to question established practices. She has always faithfully paid her union dues; preferring to let others take the lead in bettering the profession. Dee is thirty-something – a sophisticated newcomer to the local school system. She arrives there with a history of political and union activism she’d sooner leave behind but somehow can’t. Reluctantly, she becomes a key player in the Blevins Teachers Association’s fight for change in an arena where change was thought to be impossible. Mark feels trapped in a marriage and a job that have lost their luster. Mark becomes easy prey for Dee and succumbs to an illicit relationship he feels powerless to stop. . He scours the Boston Globe’s employment ads week after week, vowing that his resume will eventually land him a position with prestige and more pay.
Stu is a closet homosexual who finally confides in Dee when his lover Jeremy dies of AIDS. Devastated by the earlier loss of his mother and now Jeremy, he finds solace in the tiny back room of his house where he keeps a magnificent collection of antique lamps. That room takes on a special significance toward the end of the story.
Vera, the narrator, tells the reader in the Prologue that she had planned to write a scholarly report on the dilemma of the elementary school teachers upon her retirement – something she had lived and witnessed for thirty years but she says, “ but I know now that I’ll never be able to do that because the story that claws at my brain and keeps me awake nights has to be told.”

For more information on the novel and for ordering information, see