I have always been fascinated by first books. I found Good Kings, Bad Kings, Susan Nussbaum's first novel, enthralling, exciting, funny, infuriating, and bracing in turn. Nussbaum has created a touching and lovely mosaic from first person narratives of broken, needy, and wounded people. The outside structure is the Illinois Learning and Life Skills Center (ILLC), a nursing facility for juveniles with disabilities, but the inner cohesion is twofold: the mission and purpose of the institution, and the bonds these young people form among themselves and with some of their caretakers. While the institution itself is stifling and destructive, the personal relations are often healing, both for the students and for the adults.
Social organization is embodied in its institutions, which perform the necessary tasks of a society. So, institutions like ILLC may be inevitable, but it is important...
Here is a wonderful article about Susan Nussbaum's journey to this book.
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