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The Good Teacher Paperback – 1 September 2020
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A good teacher can change lives...
Every evening, Allison watches her husband's new house, desperate to find some answers. Every morning, she puts on a brave face to teach kindergarten. She's a good teacher, everyone says so - this stalking is just a tiny crack in her usual self-control.
A late enrolment into her class brings little Gracie. Allison takes the sick girl under her wing, smothering Gracie with the love she can't give her own son. When Gracie has a chance to go to America for treatment, Allison whips up the community into a frenzied fundraising drive.
But as others start to question her judgement and the police arrive at her door, Allison wonders if she can trust herself. Has she crossed a line?
How far will the good teacher go to save a life? And whose life will that be?
An intriguing tale of our times about kindness and betrayal, and the danger of good deeds.
Praise for SIX MINUTES
'Impossible to put down and full of twists and turns you won't see coming! I loved this fabulous debut novel.' Liane Moriarty, bestselling author of Nine Perfect Strangers
'This book is one-of-a-kind. A beautiful, exciting one-of-a-kind. The writing is tight and addictive, and hours of reading will fly by as you race through this gripping whodunit, trying to guess and second-guess who the baddie is.' Herald Sun
'A superb debut full of twists that will have you guessing until the last, tense moment.' Who
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From here the novel takes an altogether different turn. McGovern turns in a fast-paced story full of very clever scheming, skilful research and excellent computer skills. Her well-drawn characters go through quite a few emotional mills as they try to find out what has happened and how to cope with it. Several contemporary themes emerge: the good and bad of social media and the aftermath of bushfires for instance. Above all is the concern, in this crowd-funding era, that people’s innate warm heartedness and altruism can be severely tested by scammers and con artists. The big message is that kindness will always matter.
49-year-old Allison Walsh is a dedicated and much-loved kindergarten teacher and a respected member of her community of Wirriga, in Sydney's northern beaches. Until recently, she'd also considered herself to be happily married to solicitor Tony, with whom she's approaching her silver (25th) anniversary, and attentive mum to teenager Felix. That was until Tony announced on New Year's Eve that he'd met someone else and wanted to leave their marriage. Since he's moved in with his new girlfriend, about whose identity he's curiously secretive, Felix has been unwilling to spend much time at home with Allison, preferring to live with his father, who's now within walking distance of the local surf beach. This has left Allison feeling understandably shell-shocked and isolated, as her comfortable life has been completely turned upside down. She's started covertly watching Tony's new home from her car, hoping to catch a glimpse of his new partner, but also risking falling foul of NSW's anti-stalking laws.
When a new student starts in Allison's kindergarten class, she finds an opportunity to distract herself from her own problems by becoming involved in theirs. Luke Branson is recently widowed and his four-year-old daughter Gracie is undergoing chemotherapy treatment for a rare form of cancer. Within weeks, Allison has invited them to move into her family home -thereby temporarily thwarting Tony's efforts to force her to sell - and is spearheading a local fundraising campaign to raise the funds needed to enable Gracie to undergo experimental immunotherapy treatment in the USA - treatment that could be her last hope to survive her illness.
It's difficult to further describe the plot without verging into spoiler territory, but this book fits well into the suspense-thriller genre.
The story unfolds from three main perspectives - Allison's, Luke's and that of Maz (Marilyn), a effervescent young instructor at the Wirriga gym where Luke's been offered casual employment. Occasional chapters are also told from the perspectives of Allison's estranged husband, Tony, and her son, Felix. The themes that emerge are of kindness, community, family, friendship, trust and betrayal. The characters who make up the cast of the book and their interrelationships are sensitively and enthrallingly developed. As a female reader in her 40's, I predictably identified most with the character of Allison and felt her desolation and sense of dislocation at the unexpected end of her marriage were handled masterfully by the author. Maz at first appears a somewhat ditsy and self-centred young woman in the well-worn millenial mould. However, in McGovern's hands, she is developed into a sympathetic and multi-dimensional character who is faced with some pretty tough life lessons over the course of the book.
The Good Teacher is a strong character-driven drama with a complex and intriguing plot and plenty of surprises for the reader. It's a cautionary tale for the modern age, which leaves an enduring message of the power and importance of kindness and human relationships.
Very highly recommended for readers who enjoy contemporary suspense and thriller literature, and also afficionados of quality women's literature in the vein of Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies and The Husband's Secret - Moriarty's readers will find the Northern Beaches setting of The Good Teacher familiar.
My thanks to the author and publisher, Allen & Unwin Australia, for the opportunity to read and review an uncorrected proof of this title in the lead-up to its publication.