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The School on Heart's Content Road (Heart's Content #1)

3.08  ·  Rating Details ·  298 Ratings  ·  86 Reviews
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.  Her first novel in ten years returns to Egypt, and is a rousing, politically charged portrait of a group of lives on the margins of our society.  The School ...more
Hardcover, 364 pages
Published November 11th 2008 by Atlantic Monthly Press (first published July 8th 2008)
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May 23, 2011 karen rated it it was ok
donald harington has ruined so many books for me simply by being a better writer than other writers. so when i read something like this, i am forced to obsess over the many ways this could have been better if his gentle hands were still with us...

occasionally, when i was reading this one, i was thinking of when angels rest, which is the closest harington ever came to writing a "war novel." in that one, WWII is brought close to home as the children of stay more, already engaging in "war games" in
May 04, 2010 Sarah rated it it was amazing
This is the fourth book in a series of loosely connected novels that charts the lives of several families over several generations in and around Egypt, Maine. (I think Egypt Maine is a fictional town, but it reminds me a great deal of Mexico, Maine, which, for folks who haven't travelled that far down US Rt 2, is a small papermill town in the southern interior of Maine). Ms. Chute writes about what she is familiar with- the intense insularity of rural poverty, the inarticulate passions (love, fr ...more
Jan 22, 2009 Danielle rated it did not like it
As if reading Apples and Oranges wasn't bad enough I get to follow it up with this horrible book. It is a novel set in some small town called Egypt, Maine. It's just plain boring. Unless I guess you're really into militias in which case even then it's probably really boring. Basically there is some compound led by some prophet, who doesn't think he's God or anything but hates the government and creates a co-op settlement where all these people live and subsist. He also has a bunch of wives, whic ...more
Jan 13, 2009 David rated it it was amazing
A handful of pages in and I can already tell that I am going to love this book!

[UPDATE} So I finally finished The School on Heart's Content Road this weekend and it did indeed turn out to be one of the best books I have read in a while.

The book describes the St Onge. Settlement - a commune led by their "prophet" Gordie St. Onge and his wives and the people of rural Maine who come into contact with them (a right-of-center Militia leader Rex York; Mickey Gammon, a local teenager forced to leave ho
Much proselitizing going on here. I read the NY Times review and interview with Chute before I read the book, and I'll concede that it might have clouded my perception. At heart, the book is really focusing on the fact that we all have prejudices despite our best intentions. But, Chute lost me with her soapboxing about the miliita, the demise of education, the injustices the government inflicts upon its people, etc. I felt like I was reading a manifesto on cults and sects and why they are good. ...more
Jan 02, 2009 Manek rated it did not like it
Very disappointing. I found it slow and repetitive, and completely lacking in structure. I loved her early books, and was excited at the beginning of this one... but it dragged, and didn't go anywhere.
Feb 05, 2015 Pamela rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It's been 8 days since I started this book and I'm on page 120 ... I give up. If a book can't hold my attention for more than ten minutes at a time, it's not the book I should be reading right now.
Back in the 1980's I read Chute's The Beans of Egypt, Maine and loved it, so I was really looking forward to reading this one. However, at page 120 the author is still introducing characters and literally nothing has happened in terms of a story: wait. That's not entirely true. The militia has shot s
Bookmarks Magazine
Feb 05, 2009 Bookmarks Magazine rated it liked it

Carolyn Chute's sympathetic portrayals of the rural poor evoked comparisons to Faulkner, Steinbeck, and Upton Sinclair. Yet despite her strong main characters and keen insights, critics varied in their reactions: some felt overwhelmed by Chute's pervasive antiestablishment views, while others embraced, or were at least able to overlook, her polemics. Chute's unconventional language, profusion of characters (although she does provide a full character list), and multiple narrators

Aug 12, 2009 Laura rated it did not like it
I thought this book would focus more on the rural poor. Instead, it focused more on militias and inter- and intra-family drama. The characters were not consistently or sufficiently developed throughout the novel. I was left with the feeling that I do not want to visit rural, militia Maine. I felt that my urban way of life is judged, not just by the characters, but by the author as well.
Jan 20, 2009 Jaffa rated it liked it
Novel or manifesto? Who knows?
Mar 05, 2009 Travis rated it it was amazing
I lack the time to seriously review this work. This story is the first of five parts of a much larger work Carolyn has been developing over the course of several years, and it is one of the best tales i've read in a long time. The School on Heart's Content Road will appeal to anyone who's the slightest bit suspicious of programming, indoctrination, mainstream media, law, or the false dichotomies of left vs. right. The story is told through the eyes of many familiar characters (birds, television, ...more
Nov 25, 2008 Lori rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2009september
When my husband asked, "Haven't you been reading that book awhile?" at the dinner table this week, he probably could've told you my review wasn't going to be incredibly positive.

It's not always an indication -- because sometimes life gets in the way -- but you can often tell how much I like a book by how quickly I plow through it. I inched through School on Heart's Content Road for more than two weeks, an eternity for a reader like me.

I had no idea what the book was going to be about. I'd seen a
Jan 01, 2010 Ann rated it it was amazing
I love Carolyn Chute. This was a big experimental book--many characters, many voices (including the voice of TV and the voice of Mammon). While the Beans of Egypt, Maine remains my favorite book, this one was really exceptional. She humanized people (in this case members of the Maine Militia) who are left out of most mainstream media discussions. She reveals the inner life of kids in a way that is both respectful and believable. I love her work. It took me a long time to finish this book b/c I r ...more
Sep 15, 2010 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Knowing the author from her book "The Beans of Egypt, Maine," I wanted to try this one. Being obsessive, I probably would have given it 3.5 stars. It held my interest and I was always anxious to get back to it. A 15-year-old dropout is evicted from the home of his half-brother, seemingly unfairly, as the boy seems to be trying to help support the struggling family as best he can. For a while he sets up camp in a tree house in the woods until he's drawn into two local groups, one a militia-type o ...more
Mussy Schold
Jan 01, 2015 Mussy Schold rated it liked it
Reading this book gave made me feel a bit uncomfortable, as if this were a scene for a bad science fiction movie.

As the School on Heart's Content Road sucks in people (mostly women) who have been met with unfortunate circumstances to mate and propagate with the compound's leader, they build together a community separate from the greater world. Many of the concepts of the community ring out the trends of the early 21st century - sustainable farming, renewable energy, the importance of education.
Paul Long
Dec 29, 2011 Paul Long rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful book about working class people and what happens when life gets cruel and changes around them. Chute understands her people, and how they are misunderstood -- either deliberately or through ignorance -- by the media and those in positions of power.

Chute has a deft hand for her characters, and for description -- some of which are absolutely breathtaking. Take this line, for instance: "Late-afternoon sun, autumnly and solid and cold as a refrigerated peach, roams entirely to the other
Jan 16, 2016 Franny rated it did not like it
This book is beyond bizarre! I had heard Chute compared to Steinbeck, so was prepared for a pragmatic yet sympathetic story about poverty. Instead, we are given a dysfunctional family: Britta, her three children by three different men, Erika the second wife of the eldest son, her two children from her first marriage and their dying toddler - along with a "settlement" of equally dysfunctional people apparently bound together by their inability to get along in the "real" world. Chute's writing is ...more
Jun 20, 2016 Kyrie rated it really liked it
I can't define what it is about her style that makes me really like her books. I don't usually like the characters, or agree with what they're doing, and yet, when I come across Chute's novels, I always want to read them.

This story about The Settlement (a kind of commune in Maine) is more likeable than the Bean stories.

Gordon St. Onge is the leader, but a gentle one, and his family makes furniture, candles, solar powered vehicles, you name it. It's the weirdest cross between going back to the l
why did I read this book?

I picked it up for 95 cents at a thrift store. I had read her earlier book .... I think it's called The Beans of Egypt Maine (?). anyway, I read it years, possibly decades, ago. I thought I'd enjoyed it back then.

•Chute has some very clever wording and sentence structure strategies

•It's just not interesting to me. :(
• I'll need to file this one on the "didn't finish" shelf. I thought it was ME, but Naw....I just can't get into this book. period.

her wr
Feb 18, 2011 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really love Carolyn Chute, even though she always makes me painfully aware of how really screwed up things are. This is another of her very political books focused on the lives of the backwoods underclass in rural Maine. She's definitely treading on familiar ground here, though she adopts a style of ordering her story that is a departure for her and works brilliantly. I think she does an excellent job of presenting her politics without being preachy, though i'm sure others would disagree. And ...more
Jul 27, 2009 Nicolemauerman rated it it was ok
The characters in this story are highly believable. The story (there are actually about five different stories, five main characters whose lives all intersect) takes place in rural Maine involving people living in a communal settlement and developing militias (or associations with militias). Having spent the last three years in Idaho I can attest that these disparate people do exist, and their lives are probably very similar to that described within this book. I don’t know if that’s why this was ...more
Dec 24, 2008 Sundry rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I love the unusual construction of this book. I had no preconceptions going into it, except that I enjoyed her first couple of books, which I read when they came out.

It dragged a little in the last quarter as Chute allows her Prophet to speak his mind without constraint and my favorite characters, the six-year-old Jane and the fifteen-year-old Mickey fall silent for a dozen pages or more. The climax wasn't what I expected it to be, but that may not be a failure, it may be Chute's point.

For the m
Feb 24, 2013 Carrie rated it really liked it
I've always loved Carolyn Chute's books, despite the fact that they are often panned by Mainers like myself, especially those with Bean's in their family tree. This book was no exception. It felt like going home. I know these people, every one of them. The super conservative militant types, the way-out-there liberal peace lovers, and everyone in between. I love the way it was written, the many points of view, and overall picture it gave you. And I love the ending, no spoilers though. Only reason ...more
Nov 15, 2008 Jayne rated it liked it
Not sure about this one - she is preaching for sure - especially given the autobio info I know about her. I do not object to her position - just that it is too overt and too much! She is clever in pointing out that the very situation we may- in our self righteous indignant mind sets- be trying to end - in our response to militias and fundamentalist religious communes - we are practicing the same narrow tolerance that these groups are. This is not put very well. The bottom line is that I really d ...more
May 06, 2009 Deidre rated it liked it
I read this book for the promise of the tale. Her writing style was very frustrating at times and I didn't enjoy the symbols inserted throughout. Though the character list at the end helped me to keep track of the various story lines, almost one too many threads to really develop. I am starving for good fiction about compounds, communes, alternative communities, living off the grid, pologamist relationships and the like. (Its my Big LOVE phase). This book tried to fill that hunger. The character ...more
Catherine Woodman
It is funny, I had alot of trouble getting started on this novel, just didn't like or identify with anyone I met in the opening pages, and then once I got past the first 50 pages, it was remarkable--this is a window into a world that I don't live in, but have family in, and this gives a voice to those folks. The rural, lower middle class to poor, less educated to not educated, living in homogenous communities that seem to breed a bit too much hate and religious zeal for my taste, and for their o ...more
Janyce Murray
Jan 20, 2016 Janyce Murray rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I became acquainted with Carolyn Chute many years ago when I read and was blown away by The Beans of Egypt Maine. I've read all of the books she's written since; all about the down-and-out residents of rural, western Maine. Though interesting, none of them had quite the impact of the first book. This story, also set in Egypt, is about a misunderstood polygamous commune and the struggling characters who are connected to it. As usual, her characters are complicated - victims of their environment a ...more
May 23, 2014 Steve rated it liked it
The relentlessly disjointed succession of headlined short sections told from shifting perspectives -- a few paragraphs, sometimes as short as a single sentence -- worked hard against narrative cohesion, at least for me. The community fascinated, there were characters who made me laugh, others who made me grit my teeth, still others that lent sharp and revealing light to types I have only known in fiction and which Carolyn Chute portrayed as vividly as I've read them in others' books. But. The au ...more
Dec 29, 2008 Judy rated it liked it
This book shows remarkable prescience on the part of Carolyn Chute. She had a grasp of how the corporate world would lead us into economic chaos well before it happened. Set in rural Maine this is a story of have-nots struggling to deal with an unfair/inhuman government. Is the militia the answer? How about "the Settlement" a Utopian polygamist society that cares for the environment and unfortunate outcasts?

Chute uses a gimmick to tell the story. Icons are used to represent different points of
May 12, 2012 Venessa rated it liked it
My least favorite of Chute's book, I just didn't find it as compelling as her other work. Her writing is still way above par and I have written lots of quotes down but... I just wasn't connected to any of the characters and didn't really care what happened to them.

However, I did start reading this in the midst of major gardening activity so perhaps I wasn't devoting as much time as I should have. If I ever get into a Chute reread (which I often do with favorite authors) perhaps I'll see it diffe
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Chute's first, and best known, novel, The Beans of Egypt, Maine, was published in 1985 and made into a 1994 film of the same name, directed by Jennifer Warren. Chute's next two books, Letourneau's Used Auto Parts (1988) and Merry Men (1994), are also set in the town of Egypt, Maine.

Chute also speaks out publicly about class issues in America and publishes "The Fringe," a monthly collection of in-d
More about Carolyn Chute...

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Heart's Content (2 books)
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