Every child's potential is regularly determined by a standardized measurement: their quotient (Q). Score high enough, and attend a top tier school with a golden future. Score too low, and it's off to a federal boarding school with limited prospects afterwards. The purpose? An improved society where education costs drop, teachers focus on the more promising students, and parents are happy.
Elena Fairchild is a teacher at one of the state's elite schools. When her nine-year-old daughter bombs a monthly test and her Q score drops to a disastrously low level, she is immediately forced to leave her top school for a federal institution hundreds of miles away. As a teacher, Elena thought she understood the tiered educational system, but as a mother whose child is now gone, Elena's perspective is changed forever. She just wants her daughter back.
And she will do the unthinkable to make it happen.
Dr. Elena Fairchild appears to have everything together. She’s a well-respected teacher at a prestigious school, her husband heads up the Department of Education and her two daughters are as bright as they are beautiful. Appearances can be deceiving.
Elena is hiding a secret. One that she hopes she will never have to explain. But the day she has always feared has finally come.
I almost can’t remember how it felt before we all started carrying the Q numbers around with us, like an extra and unnatural print on the tips of our fingers, a badge of honor for some, a mark of shame for others. I suppose, after more than a decade, you can get used to anything. Like cell phones. Remember not having the entire universe in your back pocket? Remember sitting on the floor, talking to your best friend about nothing, unwinding a curly cord only to watch it kink up again? Remember all that? I do and I don’t. Blockbuster two-day video rentals and bookstores the size of an airplane hangar are distant memories, faded impressions of life before streaming and same-day delivery.
When her youngest daughter's Q falls precariously low, she’s set to be shipped off to wherever they send the children who are viewed as “less than.” She begs her husband to use his influence and is only met with cold disdain.
It sets off a chain of events that causes Elena to question everything from her loveless marriage, her career and exactly how far she would go to save her child from the grips of a merciless system.
To Malcolm, I was still me, still Elena Fischer Fairchild. There was no way to explain to him that I wasn’t, and that I hadn’t been since the day Anne was born. These babies of mine took something when they left me, thin slices of myself, leaving empty spots. Dead spots. I think I died a little when Anne was born, and I think I died a little more this time around.
In Master Class, Christina Dalcher constructs a bleak world where test scores define you and there’s no room for dissent. Elena is one of the strongest female characters I’ve read in recent memory. Her raw determination to save her daughter no matter the consequences moved me in so many ways. She discovers that unspeakable atrocities are occurring in the name of progress and she puts her very life on the line to make sure that they never happen again.
I held my breath and shed unexpected tears. It’s a terrifying look at what has happened in the past and what could happen in the future. So bear witness with your eyes and then open your heart. For only then can hate and indifference be defeated…