Review: The Story of Beautiful Girl by By Rachel Simon



The Story of Beautiful Girl came to my attention as a recommendation from a family member — who, I might add, also enjoys books as much as I do. When I received the recommendation I went to one of my favorite links, www.goodreads.com, and checked out the story description. Just because someone recommends that I read a book does not mean it’s going to jump straight into my hot little hands or to the top of my To Be Read list. However, the moment I read the description I wanted to read the book. Being a supporter of my local library — well let’s be honest, they support my reading habit — I jumped to their website and requested the book! I recall having to wait for it, as all the copies in my area had been checked out. (I read this book in early January 2012, as part of a challenge to read 100 books in a year.) With all the copies checked out, I thought people must be enjoying it. Okay, so I don’t know if they were enjoying it, but they were definitely reading it.

Join me after the jump to see whether I thought this book was worth the wait!



Once I got my anxious hands on the book, I did not merely jump in, I dove in! Rachel Simon is not just an imaginative writer; she takes words and weaves them with such artistic talent that it makes her novel turn into a brightly woven tapestry. Picking up her book was more like reading a work of art than a novel. Her skillfulness at capturing a time in history was as if she were bottling magic and using it as fuel to take the reader back to 1968. A time where things were changing, but not at a fast enough rate for our four leads not to be caught up in appalling old stigmas and prejudices. A time where, if you had a mental illness or were a deaf black male, you were locked away in an asylum for the feeble minded. During the days when the asylums and institutions gave no voice to those they housed. Often times those residents were victims of trauma far worse than what you or I could imagine being put through, and those who committed the crimes got away with them. Patients' rights were decades away...along with many other rights.

To summarize the story, Lynnie, a young white woman with a developmental disability that causes her to be mute, escapes the home for the feeble minded where she has been housed since she was a young girl. On the night she escapes she leaves with Homer, a black deaf male, whom Lynnie has befriended while there. Mute and deaf, they defy the odds and show that communication can occur on a more instinctual, basic level than most would think possible. Love does not require spoken words for the two of them to understand each other. The same night they escape, Lynnie has given birth to an infant girl that the staff of the home did not know she was carrying. The three of them make it as far as a local farm, where they find refuge from the owner Martha, a retired schoolteacher and widow. Realizing that Lynnie and Homer have escaped, the police track them to Martha’s farm. Lynnie hides the baby in Martha's attic before the authorities are able to discover it. As Lynnie is put into the police cruiser to return to the home, she whispers to Martha, “Hide her.” Homer manages to blend into the night and escape arrest, with an internal vow to get back to Beautiful Girl and her baby. Over the course of the novel, you are taken on the 40-year journey that weaves these four lives together.

I recommend that not only should you read this wonderful story, but when doing so I highly encourage you to have a box of tissues or a towel ready, as it will definitely pull on your heart strings. Growing up in a home where my mother was white and my father was black, I thought I knew a lot about the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement. Rachel Simon’s novel brought new things to light for me, especially when it came to mental illness and race relations. An example from the book of such a lesson was the fact that American Sign Language was not taught to people of color, in the early days of its inception. So the simple sign for Apple would be one thing for a deaf white person and another for a deaf black person. This story really shows how far we've come since 1968 with the Civil Rights Movement as well as patient care for the mentally ill. I’m sure we still have a way to go, as nothing is ever perfect, but this story highlights the struggles that people before us have endured and overcome.

Not only will this be a Must Read Again book for me, but one that I will own. If I lived near everyone at whom I push books, this is totally one I’d be pushing straight into your hands. Buy it, check it out from the library, or just somehow get your hands on a copy of this book! Your mind, soul, and heart will thank you for the journey.

This Wench rates it:




Comments

  1. Natalie I loved your review. On your recommendation I read this book as well and loved it. Agree tissues are essential if you get teary when you read. It was real eye opener for me in regards to mental health and how life must have been in the late 60s. I would highly recommend as well.

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