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Repost: Book Review – Micah’s Child by Lang Buchanan

Micah’s Child
Lang Buchanan
Dragonon Inc., Mason, OH, 2006
504 pages
$17.95
ISBN: 0-9763398-5-4

“I walked to the back of the room to turn out the lights
on that half of my portable classroom and saw a twice-folded,
handwritten note. Usually, I would have just thrown it away
but not this time. The unrecognized scribble said, “It’s
started again with my Dad. I have hinted about it with my
teacher but not really told him. I wish he were my father.”

Micah’s Child by Diane Lang and Michael Buchanan is a story
of finding oneself and coming to terms with the troubles of
one’s past. Catherine Scott, AKA Cat, a high school English
teacher, mother of two college aged children and wife to
Marshall, lives a life of a socialite amongst the wealthy in her
Atlanta neighborhood. Cat harbors a secret that causes her
grief in the form of self-guilt for the death of her firstborn
daughter years before. Also teaching at the same high
school is the new math teacher, Micah Marlowe, at first a
mysterious character whom we know little about, but later
revealing his very human side. Together they make a
wonderful team both as teachers and as good friends.

Marshall, Cat’s husband, is self-conscious of his appearance,
is a troubled sleeper, and a bit egoistic as seen when he says,
“You know what. I can’t deal with this right now.” Marshall is
dealing with lots of stress due to work issues and family issues.
He’s a lawyer and believes in the all work no play ethic forgetting
things like their anniversary. When Cat mentions it he replies,
“Damn. That’s right…Not this year, Cat,” and asks her to “Help me
pack. That’ll give us a few minutes.”

Cat feels lonely as an empty-nester. Her children are off in college
no longer living at home. Now when Marshall travels for business
she’s alone. That’s when the memories and guilt feelings strike and
she says to no one in particular “If it weren’t for me, she’d be alive.
I let my baby die.”

This makes the reader want to keep turning the page to find out
what did happen to the baby. Though she lives a socialite life, Cat
feels out of place, as she puts it, “Living at the top of the economic
ladder, I was at the bottom rung of despair.”

There’s also a mysterious cloud over the fatherhood of Tess, Cat’s
baby that died. Who was he? Cat tells us it wasn’t Marshall so it must
have been someone from before she married. Not until she tells Micah
Marlowe the story of Tess’s death do we find out. And be prepared for
a shock, because it wasn’t what I was thinking all along while reading
the book. Intertwined throughout is the story of Nellie and David, young
kids growing up in the South. I never really got the reason for this
flashback story line as I kept thinking perhaps these kids were Cat and
Micah as youngsters, not so.

Not only are Cat and Micah excellent teachers, their students adore
them. If we had more teachers like them today who weren’t afraid to
do innovative things in their classrooms, perhaps the level of learning
would improve. Cat teaches English. What high school student adores
English, especially when reading boring writing? Cat has a way of
making things interesting. Much role-playing goes on in her classroom
and aids in learning. When it comes to grammar she has a unique way
of relating to her students and the lives they live. Explaining verbs Cat
tells her class, “Verbs are males because they act up in front of the
female nouns.” She describes clauses as “Women are independent
clauses and men are dependent, just like in everything. Always
cleaning up your mistakes.”

Micah teaches math and brings math to life by experiments, bringing in
speakers, and showing videos. Micah’s motto is taken from Emerson,
“The whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts.” He has a
poster of this hanging in his classroom. Micah explains math as “part of
all of nature; including human nature,” and adds, “There’s a
mathematical reason the spiral of a seashell elicits wonder and a sense
of beauty. Symmetry is the basis of all existence.” But sometimes doing
such things can lead to trouble as was the case with Micah after a guest
speaker appeared in class and showed a video. What happened is for you
to find out when you read the book.

In general, I loved the book and read the whole thing in less than a week.
There was only one part that I had issues with. Monica, one of the
socialite wives, was talking to Rita, another socialite wife, and Cat when
out of the blue she remarked, “Didn’t the Nazi’s make lampshades out of
the Jew’s skins?” Cat tried putting her in place and ending the topic but
Rita didn’t get it when Cat responded, “How horrible.” Rita popped in with,
“It’s true. Can you imagine Shari’s skin as a lampshade?” Cat tried again,
“That’s not even funny. In fact, it’s downright scary.” Rita responded,
“Come on, Cat. I was just having fun. I like Shari. I don’t care if she’s a
Jew.” Cat retorted, “Fun? Do you realize what you just said…”Not only
did Cat feel out of place amongst these elite women, she was also the
most decent and sane one of them all. What I don’t get though is why
this conversational interchange on this topic had to be included to
begin with.

Anybody who works in a difficult population school should read this book
and learn from Cat and Micah, how to bring their subjects to life in the
classroom and how to stand up for what you believe is right. The overall
technique of interlaced back-story, flashbacks, and the main story line
make this a book that is hard to put down once you start reading. It’s
fiction, mystery, romance, and thriller all in one. It brings issues
confronting us today to light. It shows the different opinions of parents
in the school setting and makes you wonder about some of the parents
stances. No wonder some kids are so troubled.

Although both Diane Lang and Michael Buchanan claim that the book isn’t
about them, there are a lot of similarities. Michael is a math teacher and
an archeology treasure hunter like Micah. He wrote the Honduras scene
and all the male parts for Micah. Diane was an English teacher like Cat
and wrote the rest of the book. They both taught at a high school
together at one point but wrote the book mostly by email. The result was
a wonderful achievement for a first novel.

Micah’s Child deals with all kinds of issues from marital problems,
alcoholism, abuse to honesty and good to others. Micah’s Child kept me
on my feet. I didn’t get the meaning of this title until the end but it was
good that way. Read it to find out who really was Micah’s Child. This
book will be a great revelation and you won’t be sorry. So look for Micah’s
Child by Lang Buchanan (notice how the authors combined their names)
and start reading it now.

Till next time,

Gloria

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