In the Fall They Come Back
Ben Jameson, fresh out of graduate school, approaches his newly acquired teaching job at a Virginia private school with unabashed idealism. He believes wholeheartedly that he can have a significant impact on the high school students in his classes and he believes his unusual teaching methods–such as showing his students graphic Holocaust films–are more valuable and effective than the school’s curriculum. His desire to improve his students’ lives takes a different direction when three troubled students enter his classroom. George has visible bruises on his neck, and other teachers are aware of his father’s physical abuse. Suzanne, who does not speak, is rumored to have endured long-term sexual abuse. And Leslie, an older student who has one final chance to graduate, flaunts her beauty and allure with every intention of derailing Ben’s job–and life.
Ben’s hubris and naivete grow more acute as this novel goes along. His firm belief that his students will benefit from his deliberate and calculating interference clouds his judgment, and he dismisses the warnings given by his mentor, fiancee, and boss. Though he spends just two years at the school, he claims his time there changed him forever; and one wonders if it was the students or his own lost belief in his moral superiority that had the most profound effect.