Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes by Kathleen West

OIP Julia Abbot lives and dies for her children.  Especially for their achievements! In the upper snobby community of Liston Heights success is important, winning a must and bragging just a fact of life.

So when Julia takes it upon herself to march down to the high school to see if her son received a plum role in the school play (a role she and her husband properly earned him by donating a costume room to the Arts Department), and she accidently injures one of the students who was trying to see if they had gotten a part in the play, it was just her average day.  Until a video shows up on Facebook showing her punching the girl in the stomach.

Isobel Johnson is a popular Liston Heights English teacher whose liberal ideas are a bit too much for the conservative parents of her students.  After receiving a threatening phone call on her home phone, Isobel finds herself and her beliefs being questioned.  If she conforms to the school’s medieval standards nothing will happen.  But, if she continues down the other path, of giving her students other ways of learning things, she may lose her job.  When she chooses to continue her method of teaching, the parents rebel and she is suspended pending an investigation.

Julia does not like Isobel.  For many reasons but the main one is her daughter adores Isobel and looks up to her.  Isobel just wants to be a good teacher and a good person. But as both women seem to be in the fight of their lives, they suddenly find themselves shunned by the community. Julia, once the gossip queen, is now the one being gossiped about.

Social media plays an important part in the story.  First, there is a Facebook page called Inside Liston run by someone named Lisa Lions where parents can go and complain about their student’s teachers.  It is also where parents can post videos which then go viral.  Or where parents can dig into teacher’s pasts and post terrible secrets.  All of this going on and the administration doesn’t have a clue.

Could parents really get a teacher fired over posts from a Facebook page? Who is Lisa Lions? And how can a community of students get together and help a teacher? What lessons can be learned from all the drama?

Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes is a very funny look at the new normal.  It allows the reader to understand that in this day and age social media can hurt someone or help them.  It is cringeworthy in the sense that sadly, some of us are very familiar with the likes of a Julia, who seems to have a bone to pick with just about everybody, but perhaps her true angst is with herself.  It also takes a look at the politics of school life which includes bad behavior from not only the students, but the parents, administration and even the teachers.  I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Thank you to Berkley/Penguin Random House for sending me the advanced copy.


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