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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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618None16,162 (3.96)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

Work details

The Story of Beautiful Girl A Novel 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 51 (next | show all)
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 |
I’m not quite sure what I thought of The Story of Beautiful Girl. I liked its characters and thought Simon did a nice job imagining voices for each and respectfully bringing them to life. But the further the stories spun, the less I was inclined to go along with them. I could not work out exactly why that was.

Full thoughts on Erin Reads. ( )
  erelsi183 | Nov 18, 2013 |
There is just something about this story that gets to me. Before reading it I anticipated either loving it beyond reason or being massively let down. As it was...I really liked it, and I loved the end of it beyond all reason but overall I didn't have that connection through other parts of the book.

The story is about a young couple who flee an institution one night and show up outside an old woman's door. The couple - a deaf, black man and a white, silent girl hide and the old woman discovers that the young woman has just had a baby. Before she can get any further information, people come to the door looking for her guests and the man runs and the woman is captured, but not before begging for the woman to hide the baby.

The story then splits as we watch the main characters try and find their way in the world, and back to each other.

I guess the best thing to do would be to say why I didn't love it as much as I thought I would. I think for me, the only real issue I had with it was I didn't feel as invested in the characters journey as I thought I would. I don't know if it's because we had three distinct voices (very well done with that incidentally - you are never in doubt over who is 'talking') and just as you were getting into one situation, you would jump to a completely different one and when you would go back to them time would have moved on. It's perhaps an unfair gripe because there wasn't a whole lot else that could be done unless the book was 200 pages longer, but it did slightly detract for me a little.

Outwith that though I did find the rest of the book wonderful. The characters journeys were very well written, and although we could have perhaps done with more information on Martha & Julia's journey as that very much felt like an afterthought at times, Lynnie and Homan developed perfectly in terms of where they started and where they ended up and you would be a pretty cold hearted if you weren't rooting for them both individually and to find each other again. Again, the way time flows over the piece is maybe an issue - too many years pass in too short a space of time so you sometimes get the sense you are only seeing snippets of time but again, that is something that probably could only be rectified by either altering the writing style or adding a significant number of pages. As it is, although it would have been nice to have a more detailed journey if we were travelling that many years, you still get the sense of what has happened and you can feel the characters develop as the years pass. It doesn't really detract, although it may have enhanced the story if it had been done slightly differently.

The ending...the ending is beautiful and wonderful and it made me smile like an idiot. I'm a romantic, but the idea if him buying a lighthouse, running up everytime someone visits in the off-chance that his 'Beautiful Girl' will find it was just wonderful. Add in her wearing the locket and the scene at the end a few years later where they wake up together...perfect.

I will say I recommend to read on into the authors notes at the end of the book about what inspired the story. If anyone was aware of the story of John Doe #24 before this then it will add an extra something to the experience to know that that tragic tale helped inspire this. It's a nice dream to imagine that in another universe, that didn't have to end quite the same way.

Anyway - I highly recommend this. It will stay with you after you read it, in the very best way! ( )
  sunnycouger | Sep 20, 2013 |
This was an engrossing and quite beautiful tale, the story of three different people - Lynnie, a young, beautiful girl with intellectual problems; Homan, a deaf, black man and Martha, a retired school teacher. They are all brought together in a story that centres around a tiny baby girl. The characters are well realised and developed, and display growth and insight as the story unfolds, as well as displaying the darker underbelly of what becomes of societies "rejects" - the people who are not deemed capable of every day life.

It is moving, and poignant and should be enjoyed by fans of books such as "The Memory Keeper's Daughter". I did feel, however, that some parts of it dragged on a bit and that it did make some rather dramatic time jumps, leaving large holes between the plots. I am not sure exactly what the author meant to achieve, because I do feel it would have not lost much had it spanned less than its 40 years. Also, the author relies rather on the power of coincidence to bring the plot to a smooth and somewhat corny finish.

Enjoyable and definitely a good sturdy plotline, but lacks a little in its performance. ( )
  LemurKat | Sep 12, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 51 (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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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)

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"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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