Beet is the newest novel by bestselling author Roger Rosenblatt. Beet is a (fictional) small, elite liberal arts college located about 40 minutes north of Boston. It and the small town with whom it shares a name were founded by a pig farmer, so the theme and mascot for both is a pig. Of course, the school mascot is named Latin the pig… The college’s endowment has gone missing, and the faculty is going back and forth between attacking each other and trying to find a set of courses that will save the college.
Professor Peace Porterfield is one of the professors you love to have – he’s excited about teaching, and loves helping students learn. When he is named to the committee who is supposed to save the college, he takes his new work just as seriously. Not everyone agrees with his desire to save the now-desititute Beet, so he and his committee become targets for radical students protesting the college, the head of the trustees who seems determined to close the college, as well as the president of Beet. Even Peace’s wife Livi is tired of living North of Boston, where her skills as a hand surgeon aren’t well utilized. So why is Peace Porterfield so determined to help Beet fly, when everyone else is determined to close the college, including its president?
Rosenblatt pulls us into the storyline quickly – anyone who attended a liberal arts college in the Northeast will identify with the situation and the quirky characters immediately. If you’ve lived in the area 40 minutes North of Boston, you’ll be glad to know that Rosenblatt mixes the fictional town and college of Beet with the real towns and colleges in the area. If you’ve ever read a book about the angst of college life, you’ll love the satire in this book – the protesters aren’t sure what they are protesting against, one of the most integral students is considering being a suicide bomber as he tries to major in Homeland Security, and the college administration really is as crooked as most people assume it to be.
In Beet, Rosenblatt’s writing is outstanding, causing me to laugh regularly (surprising the other passengers on the train). I’ve never read a book with so many quotes I needed to write down immediately…
- When Latin the pig is loose, “I don’t think he was going to devour you. In any case, it would have been the first time treyf ate a Jew.”
- One character has “hair the color of mixed nuts”
- Another has “a voice like dessicated fruit”
- A third looks like “an enlarged alter boy”
- The president’s “face had the folds of a Shar-pei”
While the satirical humor of Beet may not appeal to everyone, it should be on the “must read” list for anyone who graduated from a small college in the northeast and needs several smile and some guffaws. The plot and characters are well-developed, Rosenblatt walks the line between creating caricatures at whom he wishes to poke fun, and creating characters with depth that you can easily visualize.
I felt transported by Beet, back into the world I left 15 years ago when I graduated from college. It had that “inside joke” feel, but the reader was in on the joke, laughing. The mysterious loss of the endowment is a driving plot point, but it is the characters and the sharp writing that keep you turning page after page. I highly recommend picking up a copy of Beet – you won’t regret it!
This book was received from the publisher for review