The Story of Beautiful Girl has a strong start with a vivid scene. In 1968, an elderly widowed schoolteacher answers her door to find a deaf man and a woman with a mental disability. She discovers that the woman just gave birth to a baby and the couple escaped from the Pennsylvania State School for the Incurable and Feebleminded. As the man runs and the woman gets carted away by authorities, she manages to whisper to the widow, "Hide her." And thus begins this story of love and determination.
Award-winning narrator Kate Reading gives a compelling performance. Reading has narrated diverse books from science fiction to Jane Austen. Her range is evident in this performance. Reading deftly handles the alternating viewpoints and diverse characters, from an older repressed woman finding a new purpose in her life to a deaf African American male who has known more than his share of pain to a world-weary, compassionate nurse. She tempers some melodramatic writing and keeps the story grounded, allowing listeners to find the novel believable and relatable..
Author Rachel Simon is best known for her memoir, Riding the Bus with My Sister. She gives a heartbreaking glimpse inside America's shameful history of institutions with The Story of Beautiful Girl. This is the novel's greatest strength, the revelation of how families and communities failed to care for its most vulnerable members. Listeners will want to stick with the novel to find out what happens to the characters and the school, but the novel does not quite live up to the promising introduction. The writing is overwrought at times and the frequent alternating viewpoints with time jumps become tiresome.
Despites its flaws, The Story of Beautiful Girl is still affecting and will appeal to fans of Kim Edwards' The Memory Keeper's Daughter and Simon's previous work, as well as those interested in the treatment of people with disabilities. Kate Reading's performance moderates weaker aspects and succeeds in making the novel an engaging listen. Julie MacDonald
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.
©2011 Rachel Simon (P)2011 Hachette Audio
A bit predictable but well told. The author tells the heart of 2 people who are unable to express it themselves.
The end was predictiable so I only am giving this book 4 stars. But, getting to the end was a wonderful reading experience. I foun myself thinking of the book long after I was done listening to it.
it was awesome, kept me waiting for the next part, was so upset when it came to an end. i do hope they will consider a part two.
This book reads like one of those dream/nightmare scenes - which I always fast-forward through by the way - lots of "and then she did this and then he did that, ran away, came to a weird place and then and then...etc." I prefer a more grounded approach, and more approachable subject matter.
Also, I am tired of books that happen in 1968, 1982, or any other time but the present. I am just not that interested in recent historical periods. What do could these periods possibly offer that "now" doesn't? This is simply my perspective but I find it difficult to care about recent history, from a fiction angle, anyway.
The narrator reads with a wavering voice and a drama and weight that created a negative, sad, depressing, lonely feeling. And she kept pronouncing the word "Nana" with a flat "a" so that it sounded like babyspeak.
Not my cup of tea.
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