Thursday, December 15, 2011
The Story of Beautiful Girl
Grand Central, 2011
Lynnie Goldberg and Homan Wilson, escapees from the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded, are on the run. It is 1968 and Lynnie has just given birth to a baby girl in the pouring rain. Not knowing where else to go, they knock on the door of Martha’s farmhouse, hoping for shelter. Martha is a retired schoolteacher and widow and lives alone. Even though Lynnie and Homan are unable to communicate with Martha, she is quick to comprehend two things right away: they need shelter and they care deeply about each other. She can tell by the gentle way Homan takes care of Lynnie and the baby and their caring glances at one another that they are in love. When the authorities finally track them down, Homan manages to escape but Lynnie is tied up and taken away. Lynnie, who hasn’t spoken in years, manages to whisper just two words into Martha’s ear as they take her away: “Hide her.”
Martha understands the concern and hides the child. Not knowing what else to do, she goes on the run herself, first to friends and then to former students. As the child grows, manages to sell the farmhouse and establish alternate identities for her and the baby. Homan, meanwhile, finds himself far away from the School as he eludes capture, with no idea how to find his way back to Lynnie. Lynnie misses Homan and waits patiently for him to come back to her, but as the years go by, she starts to lose hope.
This heartbreakingly sad and affecting story will stay with you long after you finish the last page. First of all, it is a tragedy that our nation’s developmentally disabled and hearing impaired children, men and women, were incarcerated in state run institutions. Secondly, the abuse they suffered at the hands of the hired staff was unforgiveable. Third, the love demonstrated between Lynnie and Homan, two people who could not talk to each other, is remarkable and touching. They never give up searching for each other despite all the miles and years that came between them. Their story illustrates that true love and compassion is not about the words we say – it is communicated in our looks, our actions and our hearts.
This is the author’s first novel.
Other titles you may enjoy:
Deafening by Frances Itani (2003)
Left profoundly deaf from scarlet fever, Grania O'Neill grows up protected from the hearing world and learning sign language, but her life changes when she falls in love with Jim Lloyd, a hearing man, on the eve of the Great War.
Lottery by Patricia Wood (2007)
Having learned essential life skills from his grandmother that helped him overcome his low IQ, Perry finds himself without a caregiver at the age of thirty-one and wins a fortune by playing the lottery, a windfall that brings him more family than he ever wanted.
Eventide by Kent Haruf (2004)
A novel of small-town life in the high plains region around Holt, Colorado, follows the challenges, emotional upheaval, tragedies, and intertwined destinies of the local inhabitants as they cope with the changes they encounter.