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Editorial Reviews

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.

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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

Publisher's Summary

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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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Performance

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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Story

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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Beautiful Attempt

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

Yes, it was worth the listen. Not one of the best, but a solid "B" effort.

Would you be willing to try another book from Rachel Simon? Why or why not?

Yes, I think she is a credible author. The subject matter and overall premise was interesting, just had gaps and hokey at times. The ending was tied up too neatly and seemed a little far-fetched.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Kate Reading?

I did not care from the narrator. I would have cast someone with a younger sounding voice without the northern accent.

Do you think The Story of Beautiful Girl needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

No, couldn't support it.

29 of 29 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

oh yeah

This book took me awhile to get into, despite the fact that it is gripping, moving, compelling, from the first paragraph. There was no problem with it holding my interest. However, some things in the story seem - especially at first - a bit far-fetched. It required some suspension of disbelief. Once I was past a certain point in the novel, however, what had been bothering me along those lines of believe-ability evaporated. The last few hours especially are "driveway material" - if you've been listening in the car, it's likely you'll be hunting for some headphones as soon as you get in the house.

Bottom line for this reviewer: a beautiful, moving novel.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

So so

A fine performance, but the story seemed contrived and unrealistic. Was interesting but not really believable overall.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Bobbie
  • LEEDEY, OK, United States
  • 02-05-13

Just not my thing

This book was really not my cup of tea. After reading the summary, I was excited about hearing this one. However, as the story unfolded, I thought it was unbelievable and boring. Most of the characters were dull, and the plot was ridiculous as well. It is surprising to me that so many people enjoyed this story. I'm truly stumped by this book's popularity.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Wonderful display of "six degrees of separation."

What did you love best about The Story of Beautiful Girl?

This story reinforces the importance of treating EVERYONE you come in contact with dignity and respect. A full life is had not by proving how much better one is than another but by experiencing all the amazing talents and beauty in the people around you. So many people have amazing talents and perspectives.

What about Kate Reading’s performance did you like?

Wonderful performance. I could picture the characters in her voice.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Andrea
  • Linz, Austria
  • 06-26-11

overly dramatic

Despite the sad theme its a very predictable love story. The novel starts out pretty intense and with some surprising twists but the further it progresses the more it levels out to a story with happy end.
An extra star for the excellent narration: well done!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Story
  • Mudpie
  • Hampton, Virginia United States
  • 06-20-15

Never saw it coming....

This book started out a little slow but as I read on the plot got more interesting. The unknown horrors of mental institutions knocked me off my feet. No one should be subject to this kind of abuse, especially if the persons are knowingly unable to fend for themselves. Beautiful ending for the main characters. Good read!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Beautiful Girl

Wonderful story, brought tears to my eyes. I enjoyed the time hops within the story line. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse it did and then the ENDING!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A fantastic book & the narrator was perfect

This was a fantastic read. I did struggle in the beginning as it was moving fairly slowly, but around page 50, I realized this was going to be a very good book & it was. I absolutely loved Kate Reading as the narrator. Fantastic job.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • april
  • Olathe, KS, United States
  • 10-03-17

be taken away

loved it. moving and kept me wanting to listen more and more. I really loved it.