The Drama Teacher: A Novel by Koren Zailckas

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Too old to play the ingénue, I took on the role of pampered housewife instead.

Gracie Mueller isn’t about to let her husband sink the perfect life she has created for her precious family. With their home in foreclosure, she is grasping to save them from financial ruin. Luckily for her, she has skills that her husband doesn’t even know about. Her past has been shrouded from him, that other self is dead. If she has to turn his gaze in another direction anytime he comes close to uncovering her deceptions, she knows just how to do it. She has floated on her lies for years, kept her secrets locked deep beneath the surface of her housewife facade. Always a step ahead of the chaos her past leaves behind, there is nothing for her to do but find something or someone new to manipulate and if she must commit crimes to do it, so be it, it’s nothing new.

This time, however, she is getting messy and committing acts that make one question whether there is any humanity within her soul. Through a friendship, she seeks salvation and once she sets her plan in motion, no one is safe. Then we, the reader, go backwards through snippets of her life with her father and the ways they began to leave her mother. Is she a victim? What is the point of lies, what if lies are the only way a person has been taught to survive? Just how damaging is a life of constant renewal and creation? What did dear old daddy teach her, what about her first real love? Her past is poisonous and there are secrets she doesn’t know either.

Gracie is a complicated character, she is disturbed but there are times when I felt empathy while being horrified and disgusted. Monsters really are sometimes made, but can they change? The children, I love that the author lends innocents to the story. Her children are young but not so young that she can always control what comes out of their mouths, and it’s heart breaking to hear the confusion when mommy lies and her child corrects her! Does she love her children? In the only way she knows how, but not enough to stop living the only life she knows.

When she invents another life, she seems one breath away from collapse. It’s shocking how easy people slip out of their suspicions, how their own emotional state blinds them. I didn’t want her to get away with what she’d done, and I also wanted salvation for her and the children. I would love to dissect the entire novel, but I don’t want to give away what happens. Could people really be so gullible? Yes, of course. At the start of the story she is conning people, nothing really dark, easy cons- until the rot emerges through opportunities. Sometimes the devil is in the people you let in. Who better to be a drama teacher than a woman who lives an artificial existence? Just who are you Gracie Mueller?

Publication Date: August 7, 2018

Crown Publishing

 

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