Love Anthony by Lisa Genova
From the award-winning New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice and Left Neglected, comes a heartfelt novel about an accidental friendship that gives a grieving mother a priceless gift: the ability to understand the thoughts of her eight-year-old autistic son and make sense of his brief life.
Two women, each cast adrift by unforseen events in their lives, meet by accident on a Nantucket beach and are drawn into a friendship.
Olivia is a young mother whose eight-year-old severely autistic son has recently died. Her marriage badly frayed by years of stress, she comes to the island in a trial separation to try and make sense of the tragedy of her Anthony’s short life.
Beth, a stay-at-home mother of three, is also recently separated after discovering her husband’s long-term infidelity. In an attempt to recapture a sense of her pre-married life, she rekindles her passion for writing, determined to find her own voice again. But surprisingly, as she does so, Beth also find herself channeling the voice of an unknown boy, exuberant in his perceptions of the world around him if autistic in his expression—a voice she can share with Olivia—(is it Anthony?)—that brings comfort and meaning to them both.
This book blew me away. As Lisa Genova does in her other novels, she uses her medical background to create a rich story about characters dealing with brain illness: in this case, autism.
This book alternates between two story lines that come together only briefly. Olivia has moved to Nantucket after the death of her son, Anthony, due to an autism-related seizure. She is mourning her loss and trying to find meaning in Anthony’s life.
Beth, another Nantucket resident, is struggling with her identity after her husband, Jimmy, admits to having an affair. She discovers her old writing notebooks in the attic and dives into writing a novel based on a short story she’d written years ago after seeing an autistic boy at the beach.
Her book is written from the perspective of a mute, autistic boy, who very closely resembles Anthony, although she has never met him. The writing was fantastic. I enjoyed the stories of the two women, but what really captured my attention was Genova’s insightful explanation of the autistic mind. Reading Anthony’s words added a depth to autism that I never understood before. An autistic brain works in such a unique way. I won’t spoil it by saying any more.
I appreciated the parallel stories of Beth and Olivia dealing with their own grief and trying to sort out what to do next. I liked how both women turned to art to help with their healing: Beth to writing and Olivia to photography. Also, there was a spiritual, mystical element to the story that I enjoyed more than I expected I would.
The story was a little predictable, but I didn’t mind at all because the writing was so good. The whole book was so great. I loved every minute of it, and I blew through it in only a few sittings.
My Rating: 5 Stars
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