Updated: May 14
“Well, like Einstein said, a person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”
-Of School and Women by D.S. Marquis
Like Jamie O’Neill’s novel, At Swim, Two Boys, D.S. Marquis’ book narrative, Of School and Women is a relationship story of two contrasting protagonists at school under the influence of Catholicism and the political climate of their time. With its rollicking chronicled daily life, blurred and mixed with free-wheeling experiences, almost farce, but grounded in reality, Of School and Women is also comparable to the 1970’s documentary tv series, An American Family. (Editor Michael Denneny - comp titles)
Author D.S. Marquis’ story Of School and Women captures the spirit of youthful uncertainties and the wisdom from experience in the culture of 80s Florida. What a time to be a young adult! The 80’s didn’t have Google to access answers to all questions or cell phones at its fingertips for a quick search for the answers. Young adults without life experience had to forge ahead, largely uninformed, while doing their best in the moment. The author captures this pre-technology culture, and the energy and bravery needed to navigate life, through the decision making of her two adventurous and contrasting female MCs.
Does that make them sound naïve? Well, they’re not naïve. They’re just at the beginning of their personal journeys. They’re both bold young women, college students, with plenty of mistakes already behind them as they each try to plot their futures with skills and insights from what they’ve already learned. Both women are in their early 20s, but they’ve experienced enough of life that they can offer the reader thoughtful reflections on their intentions as they make life altering decisions for themselves. I liked Lynette’s thoughts as she pondered one of life's turning points. “So inside herself, so in touch with each gust of wind and the elements and the earth and some rhythmic force in motion, calling her into the night, to search, that when something inside her shifted, under the altar of it all, it was in that moment a drifting seed of a sunder planted itself. And Lynette embraced the chaos it would bring.” Oh, author! That moment. How identifiable and well described.
Maturity is gained throughout the story through some freewheeling experiences.
There’s a casual sort of reference to situations such as drinking and driving, drug trafficking, and other behaviors that are all told expertly through historical perspective. The 1980’s have a distinct cultural feel. So does Florida. Grounded in reality, outside of fantasy, these details are more shocking, but so fun to read about. The truth can be just as fascinating as fiction.
Serious issues are also given a spotlight in this story. Human trafficking, and the ease with which a person can fall victim to this criminal enterprise, also plays a role in this story. While the subject is only one part of the story, the author provides information and resources in her acknowledgements at the end of the story which the reader will want to consider.
With some serious themes woven throughout the story, a reader might wonder if the narrative is too heavy. Let me assure you, it is not. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, the characters, and the situations they find themselves in, are very relatable, and the story progresses to a satisfying conclusion which is necessary after making the reader become so invested in the outcomes of the two MCs. I highly recommend Of School and Women: A Tale of Earning, Loving, and Learning. -J. Cyphers