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The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon
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The Story of Beautiful Girl (edition 2012)

by Rachel Simon

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6355515,256 (3.97)19
Member:bohemiangirl35
Title:The Story of Beautiful Girl
Authors:Rachel Simon
Info:Grand Central Publishing (2012), Edition: First Trade Edition, Paperback, 368 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:***1/2
Tags:audio book

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The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon

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  1. 30
    The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman (Richardson76)
    Richardson76: So far this year these 2 books have been my favorite. Both are written well with wonderful and unusual story lines. I think both would make great book club books. Highly recommend both and solidify why I read in the first place.
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Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)




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  INorris | Jun 22, 2014 |
This compelling story begins one night in 1968 when a couple has attempted escape from The School for the Incurable and Feebleminded and show up at a childless widow's home hoping to hide. The woman Lynnie who is developmentally disabled, has just had a baby, who is with them. The man is African-American and deaf who ended up being stuck at the institution because no one there was able to communicate with him in sign language. Some of the institution staff show up and takes the woman away, back to the institution, and the man escapes in the woods. Lynnie leaves the baby with the widow Martha and says, "Hide her".

It's difficult to discuss this book without giving away too much of the plot. What follows is several decades in the lives of these people. Because each one of the three is basically living separate lives, chapters alternate recounting the events of each person.

The author, Rachel Simon, has a developmentally disabled sister whose life she covers in the book/memoir "Riding the Bus with My Sister" -- I read that a few years ago. Simon recounts, in the author's notes at the end of the book, how her gained knowledge of institutions such as the one in the novel (many of which have closed in the past few decades) informed her work on the novel; and was also inspired by a book she had read ("God Knows His Name: The True Story of John Doe No. 24" by Dave Bakke) which recounts the true story of a deaf teenager who ended up in a institution and was given a number because no one knew his name. This person inspired the character of Buddy/John Doe Number 42/Homan. As a Deaf person, I know even to this day there are still deaf people who go through life without language -- for example, I have encountered deaf immigrants who came here to America with no language (written/spoken/sign language) because they lived in communities that provided no education or resources for the Deaf. They then learned language within the American Deaf community.

I liked this book; I think my only complaint would be that I sometimes felt I had to wait too long to get to what was happening in the life of one of the characters (due to the alternating character chapters). ( )
  ValerieAndBooks | Jun 14, 2014 |
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. (Amazon Desc.)

Spanning 40 years, the story is told from 3 points of view - Lynnie's, Homan's, and Martha's. The reader follows along on the journey, a bumpy ride through our country's historical treatment of the mentally ill and disabled. At times sad, funny, tragic and outrageous, this book is impossible to put down. ( )
  lrobe190 | Apr 16, 2014 |
I really liked this book. This is the story of lives intersected one stormy night. It tells of promises made and promises kept. By telling the story through different viewpoints of the main characters, Rachel Simon is able to put the reader into the minds of her characters. This is a very thought provoking novel and would be an excellent choice for a book club. ( )
  jsamaha | Mar 14, 2014 |
This book started out so strongly, with gripping situations and well-drawn main characters, that one couldn't help but have high hopes for the story. And the author came through for most of the book. Her portrayal of the inner thinking of the physically and mentally challenged is enlightening, and her depiction of the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded makes the reader glad for the advances that have been made since the 1960s. Lynnie and Homan, the couple at the center of the book, are an attractive pair, and their respective stories, together with that of Martha and baby Julia, make for a great read--to a point. As the decades move by and the urgency fades for all of the characters, though, the story begins to fall disappointingly flat, while the author reaches for clunky plot devices to get to her planned ending. ( )
  SLWert | Jan 2, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
Simon, who wrote so sensitively about disability in her memoir Riding the Bus With My Sister, often skirts schmaltz in The Story of Beautiful Girl, but she manages to steer her reader toward the truly stirring.
 
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Epigraph
Telling our stories is holy work.  --The Reverend Nancy Lane, Ph.D.
Dedication
For those who were put away.
First words
At the end of the night that would change everything, the widow stood on her porch and watched as the young woman was marched down her front drive and shoved into the sedan.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0446574465, Hardcover)

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.

Exclusive Essay from Rachel Simon
Rachel Simon

When The Story of Beautiful Girl came out, I kept getting asked two questions. Why was I drawn to writing disability-themed literature? And was it hard to write from the point of view of characters with disabilities?

My answer to the first question begins with this basic fact: for one month every year, I am a twin.

My sister Beth, who has an intellectual disability, was born eleven months after me. So every year when I visit her for her birthday, the first thing we both say is, "Now we’re twins!" And for the next thirty days, as she gleefully moves through her days wearing the Tweety Bird shirts and using the Scooby Doo stickers I bought for her big celebration, we are indeed twins. Then my birthday rolls around, and when I visit her for that admittedly more secondary occasion, and she thrusts dozens of handmade cards at me, all of which express her happiness at my coming to see her, the first thing we both say is, "Now we’re not twins."

As with any siblings who are so close in age, we’ve shared a lot: parents, a brother and sister, a challenging family history, bedrooms, opinions, dreams, tears, jokes, anxieties, secrets, unspoken understandings, and sideways glances. So I have a reasonably good sense of how my sister feels, what she thinks, who she cares about, and why she does what she does.

Of course, there are additional layers to our relationship because of her disability. I feel a sense of responsibility toward her and she feels a level of trust in me. We’ve both always known that, whenever necessary, I will act as a go-between: I will explain to her the things she doesn’t understand about the world, and I will explain to the world the things it doesn’t understand about her.

At the same time, since she is a person with a disability, I’ve spent my life noticing--and being annoyed at--how so much of the world has got it all wrong when it comes to my sister and others like her. How she gets ignored by waitresses, snickered at by teenagers, patronized by people who assume she’s helpless, underestimated by people who assume she’s angelic. In addition, I’ve pondered many of the deepest issues about the mind. What is universal about intelligence? About sorrow and longing? About pleasure and love? On top of all this, I’ve long wondered: Why does so much of the public just not get it? And how, given that some people like my sister never get seen or acknowledged or heard by the world, might that ever change?

In 2002, I tried to do what I could to answer those thoughts. I wrote a memoir about my relationship with Beth, Riding The Bus With My Sister, which is about both her present-day passion of riding city buses and our lives as siblings from birth to middle age. The book, which was also adapted for a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie by the same name, led to my getting asked to give talks around the country. At every talk, I met more and more people with disabilities, their family members, and the professionals who work with them. They told me their stories, and I started to feel a new urge. I wanted to do whatever I could to give voice to those who had never been heard.

I realized I was in an unusual position to take on that responsibility. As a family member, I wouldn’t get bogged down by cliches and stereotypes. As someone who’d already published two books of fiction before Riding The Bus With My Sister, I wouldn’t have to stick with nonfiction, nor was I daunted by the idea of a novel. As a sister who’d stood up for Beth since the day I was conscious of my own existence, I felt a sense of mission. And as a once-a-year twin, I had developed the skill of being a go-between.

This gets me to the second question. Was it hard to write The Story of Beautiful Girl through the eyes of characters with disabilities?

I wish I could say it took a huge amount of effort. But there’s another word that’s synonymous with being a go-between: being a translator. I’ve spent my life translating the world into terms my sister could comprehend--and translating my sister into terms the world could comprehend.

So when I sat down to write the characters of Beautiful Girl and Number Forty-Two, I just did what I’ve always done. I wrote about the world’s rules and injustices and rewards and irrationalities as those characters would perceive them. And I wrote about their wonderings and yearnings and motivations and joys in ways that readers would understand.

Neither character is like my sister. And both go through adversity and anguish the likes of which my sister has never seen. But I wouldn’t say that writing their experiences was hard for me.

I would say, instead, that it was heart-opening and soul-deepening.

I would say, instead, that it was fun.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:45:54 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"A novel about a woman who can't speak, a man who is deaf, and a widow who finds herself suddenly caring for a newborn baby"--Provided by publisher.

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