“The Story of Beautiful Girl” by Rachel Simon (2011)
Genre: Historical Fiction, Adult, Romance
Page Length: 346 pages (hardcover edition)
It is 1968. Lynnie, a young white woman with a developmental disability, and Homan, an African American deaf man, are locked away in an institution, the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded, and have been left to languish, forgotten. Deeply in love, they escape, and find refuge in the farmhouse of Martha, a retired schoolteacher and widow. But the couple is not alone-Lynnie has just given birth to a baby girl. When the authorities catch up to them that same night, Homan escapes into the darkness, and Lynnie is caught. But before she is forced back into the institution, she whispers two words to Martha: “Hide her.” And so begins the 40-year epic journey of Lynnie, Homan, Martha, and baby Julia-lives divided by seemingly insurmountable obstacles, yet drawn together by a secret pact and extraordinary love. (Description from Goodreads)
The Story of Beautiful Girl is a moving tale about three very different people who are tied together by a pivitol event. The story starts in 1965 and launches into a decades long saga of the characters Homan, Lynnie, and Martha while they try to strive within society as well as overcome their own obstacles.
Simon did a fantastic job of creating these well-written and fully developed characters. As you read along, you come to know each character intimately through the constant shift of perspectives in each chapter. Each situation is viewed from all eyes and after seeing the characters emotions firsthand I began to sympathize and connect with Homan, Lynnie, and Martha’s plight on a deeper level. Throughout the book each character is faced with a challenge. Homan struggles to reconnect with “Beautiful Girl” (Lynnie), Martha want’s to keep Lynnie’s baby safe from harm, and Lynnie mourns the loss of her baby which she briefly held in her arms.
Through reading this story you get a closer look at people with various disabilities and start to get a better understanding of their struggles. Whether it’s begging to be heard, like Homan, or finding the courage and words to say how you feel, like Lynnie, each day is an uphill battle. Though these characters are disabled Simon never wants you to pity them, instead she exudes a deeper understanding of people with disabilities and not to take things for granted such as the ability able to see or hear. Simon shows that even though Homan and Lynnie can’t physically speak they show that their actions speak louder than words by communicating in their own sign language.
This book is pinned as a love story, but it much more than that, for the reasons stated above. This book had me on an emotional roller coaster ride as the tone of the story shifted from melancholy, to joy, and even fear. Though the narrative was a bit too slow-paced in certain parts of the novel, I enjoyed the book overall and would definitely recommend it to other readers.