Sunday, 3 February 2013

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon

The Story of Beautiful Girl is one of those books that you can't wait to read more of, but at the sametime you don't want it to end.  I read a paper copy when the book first came out, and just recently listened to the audio book read by Kate Reading.  I loved both versions.
As a young girl, Lynnie's family decided that she was too much to handle at home and they took her to an institution to live.  After a few uncomfortable visits, they stopped coming to see her.  The institution housed hundreds of people who were deemed 'feeble minded' and determined as not suitable to live in normal society.  Their families were told that they would receive and education and training, in reality, they were warehoused out of sight and given menial work to help run the facility.
In 1968, Lynnie and her boyfriend, a deaf African-American named Homan, escape from the institution. While they are outside the grounds, Lynnie gives birth to a perfect little girl who is obviously not the child of Homan.  Shortly after the birth, they find the house of Martha, a retired school teacher, who takes them in and provides comfort and shelter.  She soon realizes that the two of them have a baby and that they need help to provide for her.  Almost at the same time, staff from the institute come to apprehend Lynnie and Homan, but they don't know about the baby.  Lynnie entrusts the care of her newborn to Martha.
For the next four decades we follow Lynnie, Homan, Martha and the baby.  Love, heartbreak and hope feature large in their daily lives.  I felt that the portrayal of Martha was very realistic. Yes, she did question what she was doing and was she capable of raising a child at her age, but at the same time, she knew she had to attend to the day to day needs of an infant and leave the rest for later.  She ultimately accepted that there are some things you know in your heart are right and you just have to do them.
I couldn't help wondering how many deaf people have been treated in a similar fashion as Homan, looking only at his disability and not his many other abilities. 
Lynnie was fortunate that she had Kate,  a caring staff member at the institute, who saw the person and not the label.  It was interesting to watch Lynnie live up to her capabilities and blossom under Kate's tutalege.
I've heard it said many times that it takes a village to raise a child, what it takes is a village working together toward the same goal for the best of the child.  In this case, the institution was a village and it was  raising the children, but it's goal was one of hiding them from the rest of society.  I'm glad I read this book and learned about this shame of society.
Website of Jennifer Mendenhall, also known as Kate Reading, narrator


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a powerful book heather ,all the best stu

Ann Summerville said...

This sounds like an amazing book.

Ann Summerville said...

I couldn't find your e-mail address on your blog. Would you be interested in doing a guest post for me? I'm promoting my new cozy mystery - Trouble at the Manor.

Jenny Girl said...

What a heart breaking story on so many levels. thanks for the review.