By M. F. McAuliffe
The stories of the title sequence, set in a high school in Los Angeles County in the 1980s, show students, teachers and support staff busy with daily details, but also living in the history, geography and dislocations of their time. In one story a woman retires because her husband is ill; in another a cafeteria worker unexpectedly dies. A groundsman trims trees; a class visits the school library; a student returns to El Salvador with his family; a teacher insists on starting a conversation. In all these stories of war and immigration and exodus, race, education, funding, and the ebb and flow of daily battles and chatter, the characters are vividly themselves.
Most of the other stories in this volume are set in McAuliffe's home state of South Australia. The final two, "Warner" and "Van Hulse" form a diptych: two boys, one with nothing but talent, the other with everything but talent, are caught in a lifelong knot of conflict. The developments of condescension, resentment, opportunity and exclusion grow to involve the whole continent.