By Lisa Genova
$20.99 Pub by Gallery Books
Here is a new book by the author of Still Alice and Left Neglected. Both of those titles were best sellers; the first being a personal look at Alzheimer’s disease and the second the story of a brain injury and its aftermath.
This time, the subject is autism, and Anthony (of the title) is the autistic.
Some of this book is of the ‘beach read’ genre (as in pretty darn light) and in our area it isn’t beach weather.
However, the story takes place on Nantucket, so that may explain it.
The story opens with Beth, mother of three girls and wife to Jimmy. Jimmy works nights and sleeps days. This day, in spite of a storm, Beth takes the dog and goes to the mailbox, only to receive a card addressed to her. It says, “Jimmy is sleeping with me, he Loves me.” A smashing beginning.
Beth boots Jimmy out and finds solace with her girlfriends, who all attend the same book club.
Jimmy and Beth have been married 15 years when they break up.
Now her girlfriends form a girlie committee and plan to present themselves at the bar where the new girlfriend works. Not perhaps the best idea.
Beth, reputed to be a neat freak, can find nothing in her closet that is cute or suitable, except a black maternity dress. Her youngest child is four years old! I know the book is fiction but it shouldn’t be farce.
However, there are others in this book who hold the story together. Olivia is the mother of Anthony and she has all the dreams that any mother has for her adorable but troubled son.
She and her husband have impoverished themselves to find help for Anthony and, as often happens, their marriage is suffering from the pressure.
Now, Anthony has died very suddenly at nine years of age and Olivia has come alone to stay at their place on Nantucket.
She is reading the diary she wrote during his short life and trying to come to terms with her loss.
As she re-reads her journals, we hear Anthony’s story from Olivia’s side.
Beth, who has rediscovered her skill as a writer, begins to write a story that just seems to “come” to her. It is Anthony’s side of the story and very moving.
The question that Olivia wrestles with, through thought and prayer, is this: What was the reason for Anthony, why a life like his that seemed to serve no purpose and ended so suddenly? She can find no answers.
Beth writes the story that comes to her and we learn how the world looked to Anthony. It’s a sad but heroic tale.
Experts will tell us that children “on the spectrum of autism” do not all present in the same way. Everyone is not an Anthony.
Parts of this book don’t bear close examination, but Anthony’s story is brave and touching.
Peggy Freeman is a local freelance book reviewer.