The Book Mark

Books that make the grade.

The Story of Beautiful Girl

The Story of Beautiful Girl (A) by Rachel Simon is an exceptional book that I will say right up front should be read by everyone.  It truly is an eye opener into the world of those that are mentally challenged as well as how society treats these individuals.

There are several distinct characters that take a voice in this novel.  First there is Martha, a retired schoolteacher, who is one of the true heroes of this story.  She answers her door one day to discover Lynnie (a white girl) and Homan (a black man) with a newborn baby girl (Julia).  Lynnie and Homan have just escaped the institution for the feebleminded. The year is 1968 and conditions there are deplorable.  Lynnie has just given birth to her daughter and knows that she does not want to raise her there and so she flees with Homan.  Within minutes, Lynnie will be captured and returned to the facility; Homan will escape and Martha will hide the baby. So begins The Story of Beautiful Girl.

This is the second time I have read The Story of Beautiful Girl. The first time it did not touch me this way. In fact, my previous reviews were not praiseworthy. I have learned that sometimes a re-reading is rewarding.  In preparing to discuss The Story of Beautiful Girl with my book club, I came upon a series of interviews that Rachel Simon gave regarding her new novel. (http://www.rachelsimon.com/the-story-of-beautiful-girl/)  Things that I missed in the first reading, plus things that she made me aware of in her interviews, has made the The Story of Beautiful Girl one that I will not soon forget and neither will you.

I work as a volunteer in a program for challenged children and so I am keenly aware of their needs and those of their family.  The families I encounter would never, ever consider institutionalizing their loved one.  They would never make the decisions that Lynnie’s family made regarding her. A deaf person would not be considered mentally disabled, just hearing impaired. I have also met some of the incredible care givers that assist the families and Kate a character that cares for Lynnie is definitely typical of these extraordinary people.

The Story of Beautiful Girl is not perfect.  I found the ending a little bit unrealistic but it does not distort the message.  The author has written a powerful novel that will enlighten as well as entertain the reader.

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