In her humorous and poignant memoir, Living by Ear, Sharon Rhutasel puts readers into a classroom with the kinds of adolescents everyone knows. She brings to life real kids sharing a part of their lives with a wayward teacher, as she calls herself, who is guided more by her heart than by her lesson plans. Among her students, we meet a bored overachiever who just wanted to be pointed in an interesting direction and told to explore, an insecure boy who overcame stuttering to become a published writer, and a poet who hated high school then became a teacher. Along with taking us through parts of her fifty-one years of teaching, Rhutasel gives us the backstories of her role-model father and the childhood sweetheart she married even though he caused her to break her nose by crashing into a fire hydrant. As Living by Ear continues to unfold, we experience the tragedy of her widowhood as well as the vicissitudes of her second marriage to a mirror image of herself. She sprinkles poems and recipes into tales of barbers, a music teacher, and a fishmonger. Some of her stories can serve as a tantalizing tour through parts of Africa as well as northern New Mexico. Through it all, we know she has listened to her heart, insisting that our hearts have a special kind of wisdom that is inaccessible to rational thinking.
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