An Uncommon Education

Book cover: An Uncommon Education by Elizabeth PercerElizabeth Percer’s An Uncommon Education is an expansive coming of age story that follows its protagonist from girlhood all the way through adulthood. Having a mother who suffers from severe depression and keeps to herself much of the time as a result, Naomi Feinstein grew up spending most of her time with her beloved father. The two are an intelligent but quirky pair, and Mr. Feinstein always demands the best from his daughter. They both conspire to map out her life from the time she is very young: she’ll excel in school, go to Wellesley, and become a cardiologist.

Of course, life isn’t that simple. When Naomi is still a young girl, her father suffers a heart attack before her eyes; he survives, but the experience leaves her terrified of losing him. Her mother is present, but she remains an enigma in all of the ways that matter; most of the significant details of her life are a closely guarded secret. And Naomi is an awkward girl; she has an amazing memory and does well in school but has no friends. When a boy her age moves in next door, the two become inseparable. Then, eventually, he too is gone. It seems her entire childhood and adolescence are spent in fear of losing those closest her her.

As planned, Naomi gets into Wellesley and begins some of the most formative years of her life. She has a rough start, dealing with the same type of isolation and social awkwardness that she did when she lived at home. It isn’t until she crosses paths with two other Wellesley students that her real college life starts to take shape: the two girls are part of the mysterious Shakespeare Society on campus and convince her to join. It’s weird and fun, and Naomi is finally able to build a network of friends. The new interests she develops, however, are not part of The Life Plan.

I actually had a hard time getting into this book. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it, but it wasn’t a book that was easy to sit with for long periods of time. Then along the way something clicked and the whole thing started to work for me. Percer’s characterizations of loneliness and that self-doubt you sometimes feel in college are spot on. Parts of the book are slow, but the writing is nuanced throughout. If you like quiet characters with vivid inner lives, you’ll probably enjoy this one.

An Uncommon Education was originally released in hardcover in May 2012; it was released as a paperback earlier this month by Harper Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins. This book is on tour right now, so check out what other bloggers are saying about it.

I read it as a(n): Paperback
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours
Pages: 368



  1. Charlie

    I’ve not read many, but I love books about school and the system (yet hated it myself, but I guess that’s the way). I think I can see why it might be hard to get into at first, I’m guessing the book “takes off” once she goes to college.

  2. Heather J. @ TLC

    I’m glad you stuck with this book even though it didn’t work for you at first. Sounds like it was definitely worth reading by the time you got to the end.

    Thanks for being on the tour.

  3. Heather

    This is one of the next few books I plan to read and I do think I’ll enjoy it. Did you read Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld? The premise kind of reminds me of that, just a little bit.

  4. Rose Molina

    First off, I think that this writer has a lot of talent. The language that she uses and the sentence structure are all great. I just didn’t like the story or the characters.We start off with Naomi Feinstein as a child, who is the apple of her father’s eye. He makes an extra effort with her, as her mother suffers from depression. Her mother spends most of her time alone, as she doesn’t want her moods to affect her daughter. Of course, the removal of her mother from most situations affects Naomi.Naomi and her father spend a lot of time at the historical home of Rose Kennedy. Her father admires Rose Kennedy immensely and wonders what her life might have been like had it been common then for women to obtain positions of power. He doesn’t want his daughter to suffer the same fate and encourages her to realize her dream of becoming a doctor by attending Wellesley.I couldn’t help but compare this book to another book about an all-girls school, Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan. I didn’t care for that one, either. Look, I know that teens and young adults are supposed to be angsty, but very few people in my teenage/young adult years didn’t laugh and smile at least some of the time.The idea of a “secret” Shakespeare Society could have been so much more fun than it was made to be. Instead, it proves to add to the girls’ intense mood swings and seems to be a darker version of any sorority than any I’ve known.There wasn’t anyone to root for in this book other than Jun, who seems to be kind to most people, yet suffers an assassination of character against which she chooses not to fight. I understand her reasons why – her Japanese culture would not allow her to exist with honor as she truly is – but it seems as though the bad guy wins no matter what.Overall, I would skip. The storyline tries too hard to create something that just isn’t there.

  5. Pingback: Elizabeth Percer, author of An Uncommon Education, on tour January 2013 | TLC Book Tours

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