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Language Arts

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  1,892 ratings  ·  384 reviews
The new novel from the best-selling author of Broken for You spins the stories of a dedicated teacher, his enigmatic son, and a wartime survivor into an affecting tale of love, loss, and handwriting.

Charles Marlow teaches his high school English students that language will expand their worlds. But linguistic precision cannot help him connect with his autistic son, or with
Hardcover, 404 pages
Published June 9th 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Johanna Jaworski I thought she was born, just died soon after. Alison had her tubes tided afterwards so she wouldn't have another "damaged" child.
I thought she was born, just died soon after. Alison had her tubes tided afterwards so she wouldn't have another "damaged" child.

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Average rating 3.83  · 
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 ·  1,892 ratings  ·  384 reviews

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Angela M
Oct 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved Kallos' other books and there was no doubt in my mind when I read the description that this would be any different. There is something about her stories and her characters and her writing that appeal to me and I find it difficult to describe just what it is that gets to me . Maybe it's the vulnerability of the characters, their sadness, and how she makes you root for them and how there is the feeling of hope when you don't think it's possible . This one has a bit of the quirkiness of Sin ...more
Elyse  Walters
Sep 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
I bought this book last year -- 'sure' I would love it. I wanted to....
There's some contagious lovely reviews by those who love this novel. It's why I bought it myself.
Yet, I was pushing myself to stay with this novel. It took me awhile to finish it. I value my friends opinions - we are often passionate about many of the same books, but this time, I was feeling like the coxswain in the row boat, (the little guy in the back of the boat)...I wasn't seeing what they were.
However, I was curious ab
Cathrine ☯️
Whew, this one was a book-full. Although not without its merits, I struggled to keep reading and finish.
The impacts of an autistic child on a marriage and family, as well as the Palmer method of cursive handwriting are part of my personal history so I was initially interested and intrigued. But it was so ambitious that my eyeballs were looping by the end—TooMuchInformation.
My thoughts were so jumbled I found it necessary to read a few professional reviews in order to give clarity to my issues
Dave Schaafsma
Talk about reading as autobiography! I’ll fill you in, here, in a bit. But I read Language Arts because I am a lifelong English teacher and because I have a son with severe autism, and this book deals with both, maybe even the relationship between the two. I have read a couple books about English teachers lately, The English Teacher by Lily King and Stoner by John Williams and both, like this book is, among other things, about the relationship between literature and life. Or more precisely: How ...more
Diane S ☔
Jun 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Wonderful, wonderful story but it takes a bit of patience. The story unravels at a slow pace and in small increments. It is mainly the story of Charlie Marlow, now a middle aged divorced man, who is the father of Cory, who was normal until he was three and than lost all powers of speech. He is also the father of Emmy to whom he is always writing letters. The book is narrated by a few people but mostly Charlie and it jumps around from his youth, learning the Palmer method of writing with its crea ...more
Oct 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Was kind of slow moving, but it is a great story. This is about a family and how the raising of an autistic boy effects the marriage/family..this also deals a lot with the father( Charles) growing up years and how it has also affected his life. Sad and yet tender.., very moving
This may be a great story, but I just could not get into the text. The writing is heavy-handed and pretentious to the point where it is beyond distracting. It actually made my head hurt. DNF at page 15.
Jun 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
As an English teacher who taught inclusion classes with special needs students including Autism and a mother who has questioned her choices in raising her daughter, I read this book with joy and pain. It is so very real. Thank you, Ms. Kallos. Once I started reading, I could not put this down. When I finished, yes, I just sat. I was drained. I am one of those people who sit throughout the credits of a movie to honor all who were a part its creation and I read acknowledgements in books for the sa ...more
Robert Blumenthal
Aug 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I have to admit that one of the reasons that I enjoyed this book so much is that it basically took place in my neighborhood (my own backyard, so to speak). It is essentially the story of an educated, literate man coming to terms with connecting to his now 21-year-old highly autistic son. Interweaving a traumatic incident from the past that also involved a disabled child, the author deftly creates a tale with several questions needing to be answered. It all revolves around coping with disabled ch ...more
Dec 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was expecting a different book.

I have a place in my heart where all the sad things that ever happened to me go. There is a rock tumbler there, and eventually these rough, hurtful things become polished, smooth, sometimes even beautiful things which make me who I am.

"Language Arts" crept into that place, and scratched the parent of a special needs child thing, the lost love thing, the victim of bullying thing, the not fitting in at school thing, the parental neglect thing. They all got a litt
Jun 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was thoroughly engrossed in this story for so many reasons. Charles felt so real. Like someone I once knew. Cody - I’ve worked with many Cody’s and Kallos did a magnificent job of realistic character creation. The only drawback is that I don’t understand written Italian and may have missed out a tiny bit on what Georgia was saying. Nonetheless, the essence of it all was there. A poignant and beautifully expressed story. Emotional ending. Very well done.
Jul 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
I found LANGUAGE ARTS to be stunning and heartbreaking. It’s a story of a man, Charles Marlow, reflecting on his life: his childhood, his marriage, his parenthood, his flaws, and his heartbreak. It sounds bleak, but it’s not. When Charles reflects upon his childhood with his best friend, Donnie Bothwell, one cannot help but smile and laugh. Also, his memories of “Brax the Ax” Mrs. Eloise Braxton (Charles fourth-grade teacher) are hilarious. While Charles’s fourth grade year had a profound impact ...more
Kasa Cotugno
This is one of those books that reminds me of why I love to read. Starting with present day, the narrative advances through three time frames as Charles Marlow goes through boxes in his empty house, unsure whether to put certain items in "save" "sell" or "discard" bins. The Seattle rain drums on the window, and the current time passes enhanced by his recollections of two earlier times -- in the early 1960s right after the world fair, and in the 1990s, when the book charts his early marriage and ...more
Susan (aka Just My Op)
Apr 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc-edition
“When my brother Cody was about two years old and for reasons our baffled parents were never able to fathom, the word God entered his vocabulary.”

Because I loved the author's novels Broken for You and Sing Them Home, I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book. It grabbed me from the first sentence and kept holding on until the last page.

Ms. Kallos writes about ordinary people who are perhaps not quite as ordinary as one would hope, but quite beautiful in their own ways. Because I don't like to
Apr 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Incredibly beautiful and moving!
Apr 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Language Arts is one of those slow-moving books that proceeds at a sedate pace, allowing the story to unfold in its own time. It's a sad, moving, sometimes lovely story about intersecting lives, a page-turner if you enjoy books that delve a lot into human psychology. If you're looking for something action-packed, this book isn't it, though, and I think that may be part of why I didn't like it as much as I otherwise might have. It's not so much that I wanted explosions or anything of the sort, bu ...more
Sep 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Language Arts was so good that even with two plotting quibbles, I happily give it my rare five stars.

Going in, the book had all the elements that might attract a reader like me--anything that takes place in a school, the strains put on a family/marriage when one child is somewhere on the spectrum, and some exploration of how things used to be Before that made the main characters who they are during the unfolding plot.

Language Arts developed in loops. It seems totally original to me to use the P
Jun 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Another excellent book from the author of Broken for You I had a bit of difficulty in getting into this one but after a fairly slow start I was hooked. The book was also personal to me on a couple of levels. Charles Marlow's best friend moved away the summer before fourth grade leaving Charles to struggle to fit in by himself that year. My best friend, Jo-Ellen, moved away at the end of 8th grade leaving me to stumble into high school friendless and it was horrible. Charles came upon a stack of ...more
Apr 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Charles Marlow is an English teacher at a private high school. His life, therefore, is filled with language and words. However, all the language in the world cannot help him communicate with his son, Cody, who is autistic. Cody's diagnosis took a toll on his marriage and now Charles finds himself alone in the house -- all his kids are out of the house, his marriage has ended -- and he's wrestling with his demons.

I absolutely loved Kallos' "Broken For You," so I was extremely excited to pick up
Wendy Bunnell
Sep 30, 2015 rated it liked it
I had mixed feelings about this book both during and after reading it. I still can’t decide if I “like” it or would recommend it to people, but I don’t think that it was a waste of my time to read it.

I was initially drawn to it as I seek out books about autism because I have an autistic son and I’m interested in other people’s interpretation of what that means for that person and their family. I have three children, and both sons have rather material health issues, as my youngest son has cystic
Sep 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, literary
I'm here to prove once again how hard it is to speak--or write--about a book we love. I've listened to all Kallos's book, all beautifully read by Tavia Gilbert, and it's Gilbert's reading that has taken this listening experience to another level for me. Her performance is seductive--spot on characters, perfect inflections, beautiful singing. I hope Kallos writes more and that she never considers another narrator. Since the main character is Charles Marlow, one might expect a male narrator, but I ...more
Jul 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Having just finished reading Language Arts, I am emotionally stunned and find it hard to put the power of this book into words. What I can tell you is I literally wept at the ending of this book. Big, warm tears. And I spent the last couple of chapters in a perpetual state of goosebumps - a sure sign of witnessing "truth". There are some passages in this book that are pure brilliance - and they shine and glitter throughout the writing. But to create a book that can bring one to tears? What can I ...more
Ellen Taylor
May 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wow! I love how Stephanie Kallos writes! From the mosaic imagery in her first novel, Broken For You, to the collage of images and experiences of this grief-stricken father and language teacher, she melds her characters into fallible, authentic people struggling to give their best with images of artistic endeavors that paint a canvas of despair tinged with hope. Recommend this to readers who love strong character development and plot twists and word play! Can't wait for her next novel! ...more
Jan 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Stephanie Kallos' sophomore effort is extraordinary. Easily as good as Broken for You, maybe even better. The central metaphorical device, the Palmer Method of handwriting, loops (I use that word deliberately) throughout this complicated, surprising story. No one will read this book and walk away untouched. It is an onion of a story, each chapter peeling away to reveal the unexpected. Like an onion, it may cause tears. ...more
Dec 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
I kept reading this frustrating novel because of its potential. I was interested in Charles and his life - particularly his relationship with his ex-wife and son. But Kallos weighted the novel so heavily on his mostly mundane 4th grade experiences that the novel collapsed. The action kept swerving and detouring and jumping around and it just didn't come together. I did appreciate the ambitious attempt and look forward to the author's next novel. ...more
Read this for my PEO bookclub. Unfortunately, life got in the way and I not only didn't make it to the group discussion, but I didn't finish it on time. I really need to find someone to talk with about this book. It was wonderful. I will read it again. And I really DO want to discuss it with someone, ANYONE.

There are two characters central to the story who are disabled. Charles, the main character, has a young adult son who is autistic, and was friends in elementary school with an intellectually
I have chosen not to review this as I did not finish it. It has received good reviews overall and because I have not read this author before, I am going to just say I am not a fan of the writing style. Because it sounded so good, I read 100 pages. This is the SECOND time I have tried it, thinking perhaps I was just in the mood for something else but....alas.
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: x07-july-2017
I had initially rated this four stars. Five stars from me tends to mean it was an emotional home run. I connected with this book just fine, but what bumped it to five stars for me was the narrative and stylistic structure. It's a trapeze act. All of the elements of fiction I care about most - character, voice, theme,'s all there, working together to make this book succeed. It does. Stephanie Kallos is a very talented writer. ...more
Jun 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Language Arts is really the story of Charles, who at middle age is continuing to navigate through a life that hasn't always been ideal.

The reader doesn't really need to know much about the plot of Language Arts. Charles is divorced, but friendly with his ex wife. They really have to be friendly because their son, Cody, is a low-functioning, non-verbal autistic child who will soon be twenty-one.

At the beginning of the book, we get different perspectives and time periods. Along with Charles, somet
Aug 28, 2015 rated it liked it
Tempting premise: a high school Language Arts teacher living through a difficult family transition. I loved the passages on language, writing assignments, some funny student examples-- totally rung true. I shared a passage with my advanced writing seminar kids, about how words end up in the dictionary.

But I got disinterested in the last 1/3, where a traumatic childhood memory that has been soooo heavily foreshadowed finally gets explained. I'm no fan of the heavy-handed hinting that seems almos
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Stephanie Kallos spent twenty years in the theatre as an actor and teacher. Her short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and received a Raymond Carver Award. Her first novel, BROKEN FOR YOU, received the Pacific Northwest Book Award, the Washington State Book Award, and was chosen by Sue Monk Kidd as the December 2004 selection for "The Today Show." Her second novel, SING THEM HOME, w ...more

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