Friday, May 06, 2011

New This Week: The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon

Expect to be hearing a lot about The Story of Beautiful Girl (Grand Central) by Rachel Simon (Riding the Bus With My Sister). It has all the right stuff to be a big book club favorite when it comes out in paperback, probably around this time next year.

Out in hardcover just a few days ago, it is already an Indie Booksellers Pick for May and I think we’ll be hearing so much more about it. The Story of Beautiful Girl treads ground I’ve never even seen approached in fiction. It is the unlikely love story of a couple who are different abled.

Lynnie, a young white woman with a developmental disability, falls in love with Homan, a deaf man of color. Both have been institutionalized at the interestingly named School for the Incurable and Feebleminded. They run away and find refuge with Martha, a widowed schoolteacher. The authorities find them almost right away. Homan escapes, but Lynnie is taken back to the school, though not before she leaves Martha an incredible gift: a tiny, newborn daughter. “Hide her,” Lynnie instructs before she is taken away.

So begins a saga that spans four decades and sees the lives of these four fully entwined by love and circumstance and a society that spurns those who are different.

The Story of Beautiful Girl is not my usual reading fare and yet to begin is to be enchanted. It is not a page-turner in the way we tend to think of these things, yet I found myself fully entranced by this unusual and deeply affecting love story. ◊

Monica Stark is a contributing editor to January Magazine. She currently makes her home on a liveaboard boat somewhere in the North Pacific.

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