A Short Joy for Alma Hedman

Frances Webb
Strategic Book Publishing & Rights Co. (2018)
ISBN 9781946539991
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (7/18)

In “A Short Joy for Alma Hedman” by Frances Webb, Episcopalian postulant nun Alma Hedman has decided that being a nun is no longer her calling. Exiting the convent, her mother picks her up with the intention of bringing her home. In the car, Alma realizes that her home life is also no longer meant for her. Asking her mother to leave her off on the side of the road, she finds a church where a priest agrees to mentor her. This is easier said than done because Alma is an eccentric character who tends to mumble passages from saints under her breath. People around her see this as extremely odd behavior. Fortunately, Alma is able to get a job teaching English as a second language at a local community college. She is also given an additional miserable assignment of having to be a writer for an accreditation self-study report.

One of Alma’s first students is Carmelo, a young, non-English speaking mechanic. Carmelo’s dreams of being a mechanic in the United States can only be achieved if he learns to speak English. He takes on this task because he wants a bright future for himself and for his girlfriend who is still in Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, Carmelo has many distractions from his study of the English language. These distractions include a couple of drug dealers who try to rope him in to selling for them, and Nurys, who is a classmate with less than honorable intentions towards him. As Carmelo goes through his struggles, he has to decide whether or not he is meant to remain in the United States. While he is going through all of this, he has some interesting interactions with Alma. Some of which have a greater impact on her than him.

“A Short Joy for Alma Hedman” tells an interesting story that will be especially appreciated by people who work with ESL students, and those who have had to suffer through accreditation self-study reports. While I don’t teach ESL courses, I can relate to both areas. I really enjoyed following both of the main characters in the story because the author created two very unique individuals. Living on the border, I have many students with whom Carmelo’s story is very similar. While I really enjoyed this story, it was also a wakeup call for me to remember many of the challenges that my students face on a daily basis, especially when they are surrounded by offers of making quick money by doing illegal activities. As for Alma, I do not have any students that left the convent, but her eccentricities really added some great touches to the story!

I highly recommend “A Short Joy for Alma Hedman” by Frances Webb, especially for educators.

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