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Book Review: Love and Other Subjects by Kathleen Shoop

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Kathleen Shoop’s Love and Other Subjects begins with an immature young woman, staring down a double barreled shotgun at her life. In the left barrel is her intimate desire for a loving relationship with a man other than the male she currently beds. While this man acts eager to please, at the same time he appears—for want of a better description—clingy. That quality, c-l-i-n-g-y in itself, has twisted off the desire of Carolyn Jenkins, the protagonist of this delightful and emotional roller coaster read. Jenkins seeks what appears to be an explosive firework of sexual masculinity in a mate; yet one in which tenderness, understanding, sensitivity, and most importantly, acceptance, sit on her pedestal.

The right barrel of her shotgun is clearly aimed at becoming the world’s best teacher of fifth and sixth graders. Yes, thinks Jenkins—as an enlightened and sympathetic educator with a well earned Masters Degree in teaching, along with a successful stint at student teaching—kids will fight to quietly sit at my feet, absorbing all the mathematical blurbs I aim towards them like quality fresh bazillion-holed sponges on a quiet sandy beach.

W-R-O-N-G!  W-R-O-N-G!  W-R-O-N-G! 

In Love and Other Subjects it appears that the shotgun Jenkins aimed is zeroed in on herself, or at least at herself in some type of funhouse mirror. To begin with, she has difficulty unhooking from her current relationship, because in so many ways, she is as needy as her current lover. But realistically, after a day closely intermingling with hormone charged students unaccustomed to daily hygiene but surely accustomed to wreaking havoc on other students and on her own personally, Jenkins desperately needs to feel valued. Surely, her parents will feel compassion, but they are too busy with their own lives to absorb the daily earthquakes she barely survives.

Quite naturally as a relief valve of pressured-up tension, Carolyn Jenkins seeks refuge in a local bar where Jeep, the quiet hunk of man in her dreams, silently waits. She cannot sleep; she cannot eat; she has difficulty concentrating on teaching without conjuring up images of this well-adjusted piece of manliness beside her nakedness, particularly when she daily combats her bi-polar principal, the man who places blame for ALL school failings on Jenkins’ inexperience and mishandling of classroom combat situations. Wow! Jeep is strong. He appears sensitive; he is reserved but not silent; he is the muscle mass of dreams.

Yet in Love and Other Subjects, when a faceoff arises in Jenkins’ own classroom between a student intent on destroying himself and her merciless pains to teach, into her classroom cell walks Jeep, an official investigator. Now, he listens to Carolyn’s story versus that of the self-destructive student, and the thumbs-up principal who is determined to keep his school afloat by following hand-me-down curricula in spite of all explosive disaster signs from disengaged students.

Is it at all possible that Jeep can somehow move into the vacuum of Jenkins’ love life and her never failing affection to convince students she is there for them, not against them? Surely this Adonis, Jeep, can offer support, but is he powerful enough to sustain both her and himself at a time when Jenkins’ shaken up life is about to uncork?

If you are a reader who enjoys love stories, who likes tales where courage and spirit might just conquer all, then Love and Other Subjects is the book for you. Here, you just might find a reflection of yourself, either present or past, ready to shoot yourself in the foot, but suddenly aiming your shotgun at a less mature you who is just beginning to perceive life as a valuable challenge—one to take pleasure in, one to enjoy, one to win! Some superficial readers might simply call this tale humorous and lighthearted chick lit. Yet a much more appropriate and thoughtful reader might label it dramatic adventure, and the daring will to survive at all costs!


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