Novel 'Glimmers' With Insight and Pathos'
The Story of Beautiful Girl
By Rachel Simon
Grand Central Publishing, $18.95
BY B.J. DUNN
Special to The Pilot
In recent years, avid readers have been treated to several delights such as “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand,” “The Help” and “Water for Elephants.”
Now, among the hundreds of novels published, another beacon emerges. A saga that glimmers with insight and pathos, such is “The Story of Beautiful Girl” by Rachel Simon.
In the 1960s, children with disabilities were put in “schools,” where they were considered incurable and feebleminded.
Such a child was Lynnie, whose parents were ashamed of her inability to speak and take care of herself. But within these walls, she found love with Honan, a deaf African-American man. When she was raped and impregnated by boys at the school, he managed to escape with the confused teenager, ready to give birth, in cold and pouring rain.
Together they birthed a baby girl, and found a lonely, 70-year-old retired schoolteacher who listened to Lynnie’s struggling words, “hide her” as she was captured and returned to the school while Honan fled into the darkness.
Martha, beloved by her former students, is able to flee with the baby and seek refuge with a young artist whom she had helped as a boy. Moving among the students with whom she had corresponded over the years, she protects and nurtures the girl, Julia, as she grows into a teenager.
Meanwhile, Lynnie and Honan wait for each other, never doubting that one day they will be together again. Honan has no idea how to get back to the school, but, with vast native intelligence, he grows in knowledge and gains a sense of self-worth.
Other characters include Kate, an emotionally damaged aide at the school, who is kind to Lynnie and shows her the meaning of friendship, and Pete, Martha’s neighbor, who is able to bury his own grief by helping Martha and Julia.
As these four main characters develop, intertwine and never lose their dreams, we are propelled through their lives with stunning clarity. Readers will hardly be able to wait and see if this 40-year epic journey will overcome seemingly insurmountable odds, as it is fueled by love.
B.J. Dunn lives in Pinehurst.
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