And The One That Broke My Heart: I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai

Ah, those books that are so good you can hardly stand to put them down.

Maybe you need to rest your bugged out dry eyeballs for just a few minutes. But then you remember you may be just a page or two from a major plot point and you eagerly pick up a book again, diving in and reading until you run out of time or pages, whichever comes first.

Such was the case for me with Rebecca Makkai’s latest, “I Have Some Questions For You.” A super fan since “The Great Believers,” I ran to the bookstore a few weeks back and bought this hardcover, and once I gave Celeste Ng her due, I dove right in.

Everything everyone is saying is accurate — Makkai’s tale of an outsider on the inside at a Northeastern boarding school is a page turner. It is campy, it is witty, it is emotionally desperate in all the right ways and it is, yes, heartbreaking. Former student-turned-guest teacher Bodie Kane is forced to revisit her past at Granby, a New Hampshire school where staff and students alike willfully ignore its unspoken reputation as a safety school in comparison to all the Exeters and alike. Where the wealthy kids and legacy admits can make or break the lives of those on scholarship. Where, if you don’t fit in in the first few weeks, you’re likely never to fit in at all.

For Bodie, as painful as being an outsider is, it affords her the opportunity to be an observationalist, which serves her well 20-plus years later, teaching podcasting to a group of students — one of which that wants to take up the murder of her one-time roommate as the topic of discussion.

The experience is the mechanism by which Bodie can revisit those years, those students, and whether or not the man sitting in prison for her roommate’s murder is indeed the person who committed the crime.

Makkai also takes the time with this story not just to explore the consequences of inappropriate relationships between boys and girls and men and women and men and girls on campus, but to dissect today’s landscape of cancel culture and the concept of perspective and how one person’s understanding of an experience may be completely different when viewed from another lens.

And here’s where the heartbreak comes in — the deeper exploration into the consequences of our actions — directly and indirectly — and the ripple effect that can extend decades into the future. It’s about the group think that determines one person’s life is more valuable than another’s. And how those decision will impact the lives of their progeny for years to come.

If you haven’t yet read “The Great Believers” (and you should), then you should know that it doesn’t take much for Makkai to commit a literary assault on your soul. The last two pages of this book — as Bodie remembers Omar’s “throwaway kindness” — had me in tears. I have to force myself to remember these people aren’t real and Omar isn’t somewhere, suffering.

Ugh, so good. I highly recommend this — perfect for yourself, perfect for a book club read …. don’t pass this one up. And if you enjoy it as much as I did, try Lisa Lutz’s “The Swallows.” Who doesn’t love boarding school hijinks?

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