Published by She Writes Press on August 20, 2019
Genres: Coming of Age, Family Life, Fiction
Format: AudioBook, Hard Cover, Kindle, Paperback
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The Nine: A Novel by Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg
Hannah Webber fears she will never be a mother, but her prayers are finally answered when she gives birth to a son. In an era of high-stakes parenting, nurturing Sam’s intellect becomes Hannah’s life purpose. She invests body and soul into his development, much to the detriment of her marriage. She convinces herself, however, that Sam’s acceptance at age fourteen to the most prestigious of New England boarding schools overseen by an illustrious headmaster, justifies her choices.
When he arrives at Dunning, Sam is glad to be out from under his mother’s close watch. And he enjoys his newfound freedom―until, late one night, he stumbles upon evidence of sexual misconduct at the school and is unable to shake the discovery.
Both a coming-of-age novel and a portrait of an evolving mother-son relationship, The Nine is the story of a young man who chooses to expose a corrupt world operating under its own set of rules―even if it means jeopardizing his mother’s hopes and dreams.
The Nine: A Novel by Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg takes the reader into the world of elite boarding schools, whilst also juxtaposing a mother and son relationship when the close bond is severed.
Hannah Webber had to learn patience when waiting for her first-born, and from her perceived duty as a responsible parent she orchestrates his every move and makes every decision for him during his growth to early teens. Convinced that attendance at the revered Dunning Academy is the best school for him both academically and socially, she encourages the move, even though it breaks her heart. As her son struggles to adjust to a world alien to him, she finds ways to keep control, but in doing so finds her marriage faltering. Her son, Sam, is not used to fending for himself and making his own way without his mother, and soon he finds himself betrayed by those he trusts and his life, so carefully planned by his mother, spiraling out of control. There are two stories intertwined in this book. First is mother and wife, Hannah, striving to be the best mother ever to her beloved Sam, yet failing miserably as wife to Edward. Then Sam, consumed by guilt at his mother’s unhappiness but striving in his own way to find acceptance and friendship. Sub-plots are father, Edward, who begins to discover his own dreams once his son leaves home, and Shawn Willis, a new teacher at Dunning Academy who gets swept along with the tide of achievement, until reality and an unsavory aspect brings him quickly down to earth. Add to this a secret society, The Nine, who have ruled and manipulated the Academy for years, and we have an intriguing, compelling and intricate novel that is spellbinding in its gripping scenarios and riveting characters.
The author, Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg, is a master of storytelling, bringing engaging and endearing characters such as Sam from a sheltered and loving home to the starkness and competitiveness of the boarding school. Hannah, too, instils empathy in the reader. Overbearing, yes; controlling, definitely; an overpowering personality, absolutely. Yet above all there is a mother totally devoted to her only son, wanting only the best, making heart-rending sacrifices for him, but all in the name of undying love.
The writing is superb, the pace consistent and tight, and the settings credible and believable, making this book impossible to put down. Every parent will examine their own motives, will see similarities with Hannah, will empathize with Sam, and will hug their child tighter every time they come home. In The Nine: A Novel, author Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg writes with emotion and a skill rarely found as she draws out the intricacies of the Webber family, their individual aspirations, and the struggles of a young boy seeking to find his own way in an uncompromising and sinister world.
Reviewed by Jane Finch for Chick Lit Café Books & Reviews