Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Signs of Intelligence

One dark and rainy night, a widow, Martha, is sitting at home, when there is a persistent knock at her door.  She opens it to find an African American man and a white woman, wrapped in blankets and banners.  She lets them in, even though they don't tell her who they are or why they are at her house.  She gives them dry clothes, and is startled to find that they have a baby who they were hiding in their wraps.  Soon, the authorities are at her door, hauling the woman back to her "school", while the man runs off into the darkness.  The woman manages to whisper two words to Martha before she leaves:  "Hide her".  Martha promises that she will. And so begins The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon.

The story starts off in 1968, and by the end of that year, the reader knows a lot more about Martha, the mysterious woman, Lynnie, and the man, Homan.  Lynnie was brought to the "school", which is actually an institution, by her family, when they felt that they could not handle her anymore.  Now we would call Lynnie intellectually or cognitively impaired, but in 1968, she was a "moron".  After witnessing horrors at the school, Lynnie stopped speaking, and no one seemed to notice.  Homan was born "normal", but lost his hearing after having a fever.  He learned sign language from some neighbors, but never learned to read or write.  He was found in an alley, assumed to be feeble minded since he couldn't speak, and taken to the "school".  Martha is a retired school teacher who thought that her days of learning were long past.  Her former students, who she has remained in touch with, help her to navigate her unexpected new life, as a grandmother.

Lynnie and Homan face incredible challenges over the next few decades due to their inability to communicate.  The world makes assumptions about them, but they each find advocates who help them to be heard.  Their advocates also help them to find their hidden talents, when they don't believe that they have anything worthwhile to contribute.

If Oprah was still picking books (is she?) The Story of Beautiful Girl would have the big O imprinted on the front.   It is destined for a Lifetime (or OWN) movie.  It is a little sappy, but still a sweet read.  I liked that some of the characters were based on real people, including one based on a young Geraldo Rivera.  There was an opportunity for a Water for Elephants ending, which I, personally, would have preferred, but the ending that Simon wrote will make a better movie.

There will be more about Beautiful Girl later in the month, when the Typical Book Group gets together to discuss it.

In other news, remember that card catalogue that I garbage picked in May?  Well, I have "after" photos for you. 

I refinished it, and gave it some legs.  Unfortunately, even with legs, it is a little too short for a coffee table.  So, I am thinking that I will put a cushion on the top, and make it into a window seat instead.

It seems to be just the right height for that.  If only it was a little more cushy. . .

Next up on CD:  Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh

Still Reading:  Year of the Gadfly by Jennifer Miller

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