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Ben Jameson begins his teaching career in a small private school in Northern Virginia. He is idealistic, happy to have his first job after graduate school and hoping some day to figure out what he really wants out of life. He first sees teaching as a good temporary job until he decides about going to law school or chasing after a doctorate. In the two years he teaches English at Glenn Acres Preparatory School, he discovers what he believes will be his life's work; teaching is what he finally comes to with all his heart. It is not a temporary job, it is the work he hopes to do all his life. His fiance believes he suffers from a "Christ complex," that he wants to "save the world" entire by involving himself in the lives of his students. This is the story of a teacher who gets it wrong, and exactly right; a teacher whose work so involves him in the lives of his students, that he loses sight of the true nature of the work he has chosen. Three students in particular, draw him in: an abused boy, a mute and damaged girl, and a dangerous but utterly beautiful 18 year old woman who has come back to school for one more chance to graduate. His attempts to "save" these students lead him to territory his mentor and friend, the oldest teacher at Glenn Acres, Professor Bible, tells him he should not be in. It's not a book about teaching (the narrator even tells us that up front). It's a book about giving; it's about the nature of help -- and it takes on the true complexity of that urge as it plays out in that most fraught (and yet common) of settings, a school. It is a book that explores both human frailty and the limits of benevolence.

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