Lately, I’ve been trying open myself to non-paranormal romances (PR). If you’ve ever read my post on why I choose to write in the paranormal romance genre (see here), you probably figured out I have no loyalty to genres. After several years of reading PR almost exclusively, I’m wanting something more. When I happened upon The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon, I couldn’t help but request it from NetGalley and was approved for a review copy. Before we go into the review, the blurb from Ms. Simon’s website.
It is 1968. Lynnie, a young white woman with a developmental disability, and Homan, an African American deaf man, are locked away in an institution, the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded, and have been left to languish, forgotten. Deeply in love, they escape, and find refuge in the farmhouse of Martha, a retired schoolteacher and widow. But the couple is not alone-Lynnie has just given birth to a baby girl. When the authorities catch up to them that same night, Homan escapes into the darkness, and Lynnie is caught. But before she is forced back into the institution, she whispers two words to Martha: “Hide her.” And so begins the 40-year epic journey of Lynnie, Homan, Martha, and baby Julia-lives divided by seemingly insurmountable obstacles, yet drawn together by a secret pact and extraordinary love.
This work started out well–abandoned baby to an older woman, missing man, and a woman taken against her will. Definitely an intriguing set up. Once the stakes were set, I had a difficult time staying involved. Starting with Martha, the elderly lady: she tended to ramble and jump back and forth between the past and present in ways which were jarring. Her general purpose seemed to be to show the baby’s location. Though Martha encountered quite a few people, I cared very little for the side characters in her story as the mentions were brief and typically mundane.
Of all the characters, I enjoyed Lynnie the most. Though she had mental deficiencies, she seemed strong in social skills and managed to communicate in unconventional ways. I loved her strength and the compassion she showed to others… even those whom deserved little.
Homan, I thought, had the most interesting story. His theme was out of the frying pan, into the fire. However, I had a difficult time connecting with him. He had humongous gaps in his education, which seemed preventable considering the connections he had prior to going on the run. I guess it was just hard for me to understand how someone with family and friends who loved him would not know simple things, like how to spend money. Thankfully for him, he had quite a few lucky breaks. Add that to his resourcefulness, and he managed to stay afloat well enough.
In some ways, the story had a spiritual undertone in which the characters believed in the big picture (someone in the sky watching over them or having a greater plan), but the book never really made the actual connection. It was almost as if the author wanted to plant a seed in the readers’ mind but failed to go all the way. It would have been nice for the author to make a commitment in this area–either present a spiritual message or not, rather than a lukewarm message with no spiritual resolution.
Really, this work had a lot of potential. In many ways, it reminded me of the literature I read when I was younger: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Of Mice and Men, Flowers for Algenon. Not that the writing style was similar, but more on the lines of realism… where suffering happens because that’s just the way life is. Unfortunately, the presentation was lacking.
You can find The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon at: