Friday, January 13, 2012

Book #2: The Story of Beautiful Girl (Rachel Simon)

What a beautiful book!  The Story of Beautiful Girl was one of our fall group reads on the Reading Circle, and I'm so glad we chose it.  I plan to write more about it here later, when I have more time, but wanted to get this post up here before the 52 Books deadline for the week.

For now, you can head on over to Rachel Simon's website to learn more about the book and about Ms. Simon.  I'm looking forward to exploring over there, now that I've finished the book.  I highly recommend this novel.

Okay, I'm back to tell you more.  One of my first thoughts is that the author, Rachel Simon, clearly values and appreciates books and stories.  Here is a quote from The Story of Beautiful Girl:
"A book wasn’t something you could open anywhere and then flip to anywhere else. You opened it at the front and went forward, and the pages went from one to the next, each adding to the last, and the story grew more exciting with each page. It was like the way corn grew from the seed that got planted in spring to the tall rows you hid inside in the fall. A story grew."
At the beginning of this story, Martha, a 70-something retired teacher and widow who lives in a farmhouse, hears a knock at her door in the middle of a powerful storm. When she opens the door, she finds two people there – a young woman and a deaf man. Make that three people:  The woman is holding a newborn baby.  Martha is not sure what she should do – they can’t communicate with her very well, as neither of them speaks – but soon she gets the feeling that they are looking for a place of safety. She also observes that they love each other very much.

Soon, people from “the School” arrive at her house, and the young woman is caught. The man escapes, and the baby is still upstairs. Martha learns the woman’s name is Lynnie, and that she never speaks except to say the word "no." She lives at the School (an institution for people with developmental disabilities), and they’ve come to take her back. As they prepare to take her away, Lynnie has the opportunity to look into Martha’s eyes and whisper, “Hide her.”

From there, the story grows.

It follows four characters -- Lynnie, the deaf man, Martha, and Kate (a woman who works at the School) – alternating viewpoints. We see what life is like for each of these people with different situations and unique ways of interacting with others and the world. The novel spans over forty years, and at first, I was concerned that this would make it difficult to read, jumping around to different people and time periods, but the author switches stories and viewpoints without making it feel jarring or disconnected.

Here is the website for the book. I just learned that the book is coming out in paperback this February.

Rachel Simon was inspired to write this book for many reasons, some of which she explains in her afterword. She previously wrote and published Riding the Bus with My Sister, a memoir, and several other books as well, including one on writing.

I am really glad she wrote this novel, and I’d love to hear her speak someday. I found a couple of videos of her on YouTube:

~ Click here to watch an excerpt of a talk she gave in 2004.
Click here to hear an interview with her about the book.  (This one is about 30 minutes long.  I've only listened to the first five minutes, and hope to find time to watch the rest soon.)


mary kinser said...

I started this one but couldn't get into it - maybe I should give it another try, though. Looking forward to your review.

Caryl said...

Thanks for stopping by, Mary! I suggest you do the Nancy Pearl thing: Read 50 pages, and if it doesn't grab you, move on to something else. I really loved it, but sometimes you just have to be in the right mood for a book, you know?

Rachel Simon said...

Thank you for reading and embracing my book, Caryl. And for going to my website and finding out more! I can't tell you how much this means to me. The publisher is sending me on a book tour when the paperback comes out in mid-February. I have the itinerary listed on my Appearance page. If you're in one of those areas, it would be wonderful to meet, so I can thank you in person.

Sherry said...

It was a lovely book, wasn't it? I wrote about here:

And it made my list of best adult fiction books that I read this past year.

Caryl said...

Rachel, it's wonderful to see your post here! Thank *you* for this book! I did check your book tour schedule, and you won't be in my neck of the woods (Twin Cities). Boo! But in April you'll be near my brother- and sister-in-law; they are readers, and I plan to recommend your book, as well as the book festival, to them.

Keep up the fantastic work! You should be very proud.

Caryl said...

Sherry, I just read your review and left you a comment over there. I love your blog! I'm bookmarking it. :)