Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fiction Review: The Story of Beautiful Girl

I was already a huge fan of Rachel Simon’s thoughtful and engaging memoirs (Riding the Bus with My Sister and Building a Home with My Husband), so I was thrilled when I heard about her new novel, The Story of Beautiful Girl.  I was not disappointed.  All the writing talent Simon showed in her memoirs comes shining through in her novel.  It is a beautiful story, beautifully written.

Lynnie, a young white woman who is mentally disabled, has been living in an institution since her childhood (it is now 1968) and learned long ago to protect herself by not speaking.  Homan is a deaf African American man who has also been institutionalized and forgotten by society.  Lynnie and Homan fall in love and plot their escape.  Their freedom is short-lived, however, and the authorities soon catch up with them in a farmhouse where a kind widow named Martha has taken them in for the night.

Unbeknownst to the authorities, Lynnie gave birth to a daughter before they caught up with her.  She whispers two words to Martha, “Hide her,” before she is taken back to the despised institution and Homan evades capture and disappears into the night.  The rest of the book is devoted to following each of their lives – Lynnie, Homan, Martha, and the baby – as Lynnie and Homan desperately try to find each other and the baby again.

It is a story of highs and lows, ranging from the horrible conditions and treatment of patients in the institution to the touching, undying love that Lynnie and Homan feel for each other, from the way that disabled people were cast aside just a few decades ago to the selfless actions of Martha toward people she had just met.  The characters feel real and the plot twists are unpredictable.  Though it may sound depressing to some, this is a love story at its heart and it is ultimately uplifting.

Simon’s writing is wonderful – compelling, engaging, beautiful prose that pulls the story along.  I was immediately drawn into these fictional lives, feeling a part of their story. I never wanted it to end, and for me, that is the sign of a truly wonderful book.

340 pages, Grand Central Publishing



  1. Sounds like a great story!

  2. Thanks for sharing! I really want to read it now!