A Mom Will Do Anything for her Child
by Christina Dalcher
I guess, if I think hard enough, people can get used to anything ―
Christina Dalcher, Master Class
Every child’s potential is regularly determined by a standardized measurement: their quotient (Q). Score high enough, and attend a top tier school with a golden future. Score too low, and it’s off to a federal boarding school with limited prospects afterwards. The purpose? An improved society where education costs drop, teachers focus on the more promising students, and parents are happy.
Elena Fairchild is a teacher at one of the state’s elite schools. When her nine-year-old daughter bombs a monthly test and her Q score drops to a disastrously low level, she is immediately forced to leave her top school for a federal institution hundreds of miles away. As a teacher, Elena thought she understood the tiered educational system, but as a mother whose child is now gone, Elena’s perspective is changed forever. She just wants her daughter back.
And she will do the unthinkable to make it happen.
Hardcover, 336 pagesPublished April 21st 2020 by BerkleyOriginal TitleMaster ClassISBN0440000831 (ISBN13: 9780440000839)Edition LanguageEnglish
Wow. What a story. What an idea.
Again, Christina Dalcher has written an almost prescient story about humanity. Much in the Vein of Vox, Dalcher tackles the idea of the “haves” and “have nots” and takes it to a terrifying place. It isn’t a new idea; I know of quite a few authors who have delved into the concept of inequality based on genetics or disposition. However, I can’t think of one who pulled at my emotions as much as this story. Her book struck a chord in me. Maybe it is the combination of motherhood, something so powerful and innate it makes me shake thinking of someone taking away my child, and the current climate of unease. Or, perhaps the utter impotence and rage I felt reading about Elena’s predicament. She fought to save her child in a near-impossible system.
I’ll repeat that. We are not all the same. ―
Christina Dalcher, Master Class
Either way, Dalcher wrote a hell of a character.
Dr. Elena Fairchild looks like she has it all. On paper, she does because she has a high Q score, the perfect husband, the ideal career, the perfect children. The Q score is an amalgamation of all the characteristics a society considers “desirable.” Underneath it all, people are imperfect. Because people are people warts and all, and when you shove them into a system like the one described in Master Class, you can see right away how people will start to fall through the cracks. People like those who learn differently, such as Elena’s daughter. Or wives who fall out of love with their husbands. And especially those who have any disability, all of those who are outside the “perfect” line. When Elena’s nine-year-old daughter bombs a critical test, her Q score becomes too low and is sent away to an institution, and Elena wants her daughter back.
I think that some who read Master Class will feel that it is a compelling dystopian story, and the undercurrent of narrative and discussion won’t go any further than that. Others, though, like myself, Master Class will rip their heart out and have to put the book down a few times because of the building rage inside of them.
I wanted to yell a few times:
“Stay the hell away from her child!”
“What a bastard of a husband!”
“What a messed up system!”
Any book that can elicit such a strong emotional response inside of me is aces in my book.
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Where to find it?
I received a copy of this for the tour.
About the Author
Christina Dalcher earned her doctorate in theoretical linguistics from Georgetown University. She specialized in the phonetics of sound change in Italian and British dialects and taught at universities in the United States, England, and the United Arab Emirates.
Her short stories and flash fiction appear in over one hundred journals worldwide. Recognitions include first prize in the Bath Flash Fiction Award as well as nominations for The Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Best Small Fictions.
Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary Agency represents Dalcher’s novels.
After spending several years abroad, most recently in Sri Lanka, Dalcher and her husband now split their time between the American South and Andalucia, Spain.
Her debut novel, VOX, was published in August 2018 by Berkley (an imprint of Penguin Random House) and has been translated into twenty languages.
Dalcher’s second novel, MASTER CLASS, will be out in the spring of 2020.