50 in 2012: Book ElevenPosted: March 20, 2012 Filed under: Book Review 1 Comment
The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
1968. A stunningly gorgeous developmentally disabled white woman is shipped off to the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded. There, she meets Homan, an African American deaf man. Lost among the forgotten, the embarrassing, and the hopeless causes, Lynnie and Homan find refuge in each other.
Shown as a multi-acre facility offering a multitude of activity and gorgeous grounds, the reality of “the school” is one of fear, mistreatment, and abuse. Raped by an attendant in a musty closet, Lynnie finds herself with child and Homan becomes her protector. Together, they manage to escape the school. While free, they seek shelter and a home for Lynnie’s newborn baby girl. After sensing something wrong with numerous other homes, Lynnie is drawn to something about Martha’s house and they take a chance, knocking on her door. She offers them food, warmth, and a place for the night. Shortly after settling in, the doors are stormed down by armed officers and Lynnie is taken into custody. Homan runs into the darkness. A secret remains in the house. Lynnie wills herself to speak the first words she’s uttered in years, “hide her.”
While there were chunks of this book that were interminably slow, the characters were so poignant, I found myself devouring the pages to discover what happened. Early in the story, Lynnie talks about the “you” that people see and think you are and the “you” that you know you are. Her parents, the attendants at the school, and strangers often openly discussed her inabilities and questioned her ability to understand in front of her, none of them knowing that she DID understand, she was able. From this moment, Lynnie captured my heart.
Written in alternating chapters: Martha, Lynnie, Homan, and Kate (the one caring person at the school) we are taken on a forty year journey of love, loss and courage. The beginning, end, and characters make this book one that will tug at your heartstrings. The characters will stay with you long beyond the last written word on the page and their stories illustrate the true depth of the human spirit. Beautiful.
This book sounds so “rich” (in pain and in suffering) that it’s almost scary to start reading it. But I’m a sucker for good dramas and epic novels, so I’ll give this one a try. 🙂 Great review!