Grover Cleveland College “appeared…just as Vietnam had begun to get on people’s nerves,” created as “a haven for young men seeking coveted college deferments from the draft.” Of course, once the war ended, so did the halcyon days of the school. Set in the early-80s, Long Live Grover Cleveland follows the college as it enters what may be its final death throe. The college’s founder and president, Cyrus Cleveland–a first cousin once removed of the nephew of the college’s namesake, the late president Grover Cleveland–wills the dying campus to his nephew Marcus, a used car salesman from New Jersey.
Author Robert Klose, a biology instructor at the University of Maine in Augusta, captures the ridiculous and the sublime of higher education, from faculty-administration clashes, to the second-class status of adjuncts. The faculty and staff maneuver and manipulate around one another, each dealing with the school’s imminent demise in their own, not always logical way, and usually at odds with one another–and with reality. New president Marcus Cleveland’s naively optimistic efforts to create esprit d’ corps within their ranks provides a sharp and telling counterpoint to their follies and machinations. The only flaw in the well-drawn situational humor is that most of the characters seem straight out of central casting, archetypes without real depth. While the gist of the story remains after reading the last page, the individual characters, aside from Marcus and Briscoe, quickly fade from memory.
Overall, the plot and execution are well-done, and the race against-the-clock (literally) to the college’s demise keeps the story moving. Aside from an irritating formatting glitch of random line breaks (at least in the electronic version), the writing and editing are meticulous. Not having to stumble over myriad spelling and grammar errors makes the line break problem pretty trivial, and the many laugh-out-loud moments make up for the one-dimensional characters.
Anyone who has worked in academia, attended college or lived in a college town will appreciate the humor Klose mines from the subtle and ever-changing faculty and staff rivalries, alliances, and petty infighting–like a dysfunctional family whose members argue incessantly, but are quick to close ranks and defend one another from outside attacks. While Klose’s observations cut deep into ivory tower pretensions, he never steps over the line from humorous to mean-spirited, keeping the reader rooting for a positive outcome, despite the odds.
Well-written, Long Live Grover Cleveland is an entertaining look at academic life, filled with both subtle and laugh out loud observations on the egos and insecurities that fuel it. A formatting issue in the electronic version results in numerous, random line breaks that interrupt the reading flow, but the meticulous editing of the narration, and the fun story with a feel-good ending more than make up for the inconvenience. An enjoyable read, definitely worth it, particularly for anyone who has experienced college-life in any form.
The Rating4.5 Stars (out of 5): Highly recommended. This book is a great read. It can hold its own against any traditionally published novel in its genre, and surpasses many.
The Pros & ConsPros: Believable, Humor, Plot, Prose
Cons: Character Developement, Formatting