The Bossy Bookworm
Review of I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai
Makkai's boarding school-set mystery offers depth as it exposes age-old power mismatches; offers young characters agency; explores systemic violence against women; and serves up true-crime fascination while its middle-aged protagonist makes mistakes, seeks justice, and fights for closure.
I listened to the audiobook of Rebecca Makkai's I Have Some Questions for You, wonderfully narrated by Julia Whelan and JD Jackson.
Bodie Kane is a professor and podcaster, and she has left firmly in the past the events of her boarding school years, when her roommate Thalia was murdered--and the school's athletic trainer was convicted of the crime.
But when her alma mater invites her to return to teach a course, Bodie is drawn back to the case and realizes its shoddy investigation and its seemingly faulty conclusions. It makes her wonder: who really killed Thalia?
I've been eagerly awaiting the release of this story, which I understood to be part whodunit, part boarding school novel--I love a boarding school novel. Yet Makkai's book was also much more.
I Have Some Questions for You is an examination of the shocking, broad power of a social media whirlwind, particularly one without basis in facts or merit. It's about our societal obsession with tragedies and mysterious murders, and the tendency of bystanders to insert themselves into speculation and judgment. It's about the infuriating, often tragic power mismatches between men and women, white and Black people, and the wealthy and the poor.
Makkai offers up the potentially world-changing power of young people with an idea and tenacity; and she allows the privileged, sometimes cruel, seemingly shallow young students from Bodie's past to make worthwhile differences in the world. Meanwhile our main protagonist is a middle-aged woman appealingly muddling along at times, doing her best, looking for love, and using her intelligence and passion for justice to lead the way.
I absolutely loved the structure of the book, as Bodie directs her first-person narrative voice at the person she believes to be responsible for Thalia's murder.
I found the repeated true-crime mentions of various similar and dissimilar cases particularly powerful and heartbreaking in their copiousness--and in highlighting the brutality against women that has come to shape our world. Lists include cases summarized in the vein of "It was the one where [insert specific circumstances of a woman's death at the hands of a man]" and "No, it was the one where he got off because [insert faulty investigative or legal prosecution circumstances]."
I received an audiobook edition of this book courtesy of Libro.fm and Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group.
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Rebecca Makkai is also the author of The Great Believers and The Hundred-Year House.
For more Bossy reviews of fiction and nonfiction books about boarding schools, click here.