Finished January 25
The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon
This book was written to highlight the sad history of state homes for developmentally delayed adults and those with disabilities. The author's sister Beth had an intellectual disability and that made Simon interested in the history of society's treatment of these individuals.
This novel begins in 1968 when retired schoolteacher Martha has a knock on the door of her remote farmhouse on a rainy night. She opens the door to Lynnie and Homan who have escaped from the Pennsylvania State School for the Incurable and Feebleminded, as it was known at that time. They also have with them Lynnie's newborn baby. Martha takes them in, clothes and feeds them, but unfortunately the authorities aren't far behind and are soon also knocking on Martha's door. They take Lynnie back to the School, but Homan makes a successful run for it, and the authorities seem to have no knowledge of the baby's existence. Lynnie's please to Martha to "hide her" rings of desperation and Martha struggles with the right thing to do.
Martha was an inspiring teacher and she has a number of former students to come back to visit her. Now, she is the one going to them, for advice, for assistance, and for shelter as she follows Lynnie's instruction, and raises the child she has quickly grown to love.
Lynnie resumes her old life back at the school, and one of the staff Kate, that has been close to her, discovers her situation regarding the baby and struggles with whether to inform others or not. With Lynnie's confiding pictures, Kate follows the trail to Martha's house and finds support to keep the secret for both Lynnie and the baby's sake.
Homan, meanwhile is on the run once again. Misunderstood and prejudiced against the young deaf man struggles to understand the world he lives in and find a place in it.
Neither Homan nor Lynnie forget the other and both hope to one day find a way back to each other.
Of course over the course of time, society's role in the lives of these marginalized people changes as well as the maltreatment of them becomes more widely known and changes are made to help them rather than just hide them from view.
A moving tale of love, societal change, and perseverance.