Since her astonishing debut, The Beans of Egypt, Maine,
best-selling novelist Carolyn Chute has been heralded as a passionate voice of the underclass, earning comparisons to Faulkner, Steinbeck, and Flannery O’Connor. In her first novel in ten years, Chute returns to Egypt, Maine, and delivers a rousing, politically charged portrait of a group of lives on the margins of our society.The School on Heart’s Content Road
spirals out from the story of Mickey Gammon, a disaffected fifteen-year-old dropout who has been evicted from his home by his overwrought half-brother. With the help of his new friend, Rex York, the captain of the local militia, Mickey is introduced to the secretive world of the Settlement. Run by a man known to many as “The Prophet,” the Settlement is a rural cooperative in alternative energy, farm produce, and locally made goods. Falsely demonized by the media as a compound of sin, the Settlement’s true nature remains foreign to outsiders.
It is at the Settlement where Mickey’s life collides with that of another deserted child, six-year-old Janea cunning, beautiful girl of mixed race, whose mother is in jail on trumped-up drug charges. “Secret Agent” Jane prowls the Settlement in her heart-shaped sunglasses, imagining that her childish plans to bring down the community will reunite her with her mother. As they struggle to adjust to their new, complex surrogate family, Mickey and Jane witness the mounting unrest within the Settlement’s ranks, which soon builds to a shocking and devastating crescendo.
Vehement and poetic, The School on Heart’s Content Road
questions the nature of family, struggle, and authority in an intensely diverse nation. It is an urgent plea from the disenfranchised who, though disregarded and shoved to the fringes of society, refuse to be silenced.Carolyn Chute's interview with Maine Public Radio