Maggie Barnett is a 52-year-old, high-school media teacher, with a history of kleptomaniac tendencies and a partiality for photographing doors. After years of drifting from state to state, in and out of failed relationships, Maggie has laid her hat down in Flint, Michigan.
Taezha is a spirited, ingenuous, talented 15-year-old teenager, who comes from a troubled home life, where truth and pay checks are inconstant, but she loves to write - and she is good at it.
Maggie takes a very personal interest in Tae and purposefully pursues a relationship with her. Tae, never having had any attention, willingly accepts Maggie’s friendship. When Maggie offers to be Tae’s writing mentor and suggests they go on a summer road trip, Tae is elated.
As the miles take them further from Flint, the atmosphere between them fills with tension and awkwardness. At times, Tae finds Maggie watching her in a way that makes her uncomfortable and as much as she appreciates what Maggie is doing for her, Tae finds it unnerving. Maggie’s feelings for Tae are inexplicably complicated; possessive, obsessive, passionate, motherly, controlling.
The road trip both reveals and confirms significant factors in Tae’s young life, which will challenge and influence her. While for Maggie, it leaves her unfulfilled and facing an uncertain direction. Like the doors she takes pictures of – either an entrance or an exit – she runs in and out of life, with her blurred principles and inner struggles, as her constant companions.
From the slow reveal of peeled back emotional layers to the unspoken, illicit sexual tension, Sage tells her story with skill. The emotions are thick and palpable on the pages - delivering Maggie’s psychologically complex emotions and her own brokenness, cleverly and with respectful perception. Tae’s inner struggle and confusion, guarded hesitancy and youthful zeal, were portrayed with authenticity.
Thought-provoking, probing and unconventional, A Mentor and Her Muse is a highly recommendable novel.
Thank you most sincerely to Susan Sage and Open Books, for the read of A Mentor and Her Muse.
My opinions expressed in my reviews are my own.