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Thursday, 25 July 2013


 reviewed live on bookshow by Corinna Christopher 25th July 2013
On the front of book cover are the words “As powerful and compelling as “The Help”and I do think this is justified as it addresses some of the failings of American attitudes the last century.

The story commences on a stormy night in 1968 in Pennysylvania at the home of Martha a retired school teacher, widowed and living alone.  A knock on the door reveals two fugitives.  Lynnie  a young woman with an intellectual disability and Homan a deaf man with only limited sign language.  They have escaped from “The School for the Incurable and Feebleminded “  This is a depressing and restricting establishment where the inmates are not treated very well and are locked away from the general public.

Lynnie has just given birth to a little baby girl and when they are captured she hands the baby to Martha and asks her to hide her, at the same time Homan manages to escape into the woods.  Martha rises to the occasion and is soon devoted to her charge giving her the name of Julia.  With the help of former students

she moves around the country to avoid detection and finally settles down with Pete to raise Julia.

Meanwhile we follow the fortunes of Lynnie who is lucky enough to have a friend in Kate who is employed by the authorities to help the inmates.  Lynnie is saved by her ability to draw, trying to forget why she is abandoned and the fate of her child.  The only good to happen to her is the loving connection she made with Homan before he disappeared.

We are also fortunate to learn what happens to Homan as he moves around the countryside, always with communication difficulties.  As a result of Martha,s student contacts a reporter gains access to the School and the world is made aware of what is going on.  It therefore is obliged to close and better arrangements are made for the inmates.  Lynnie is eventually able to learn speech and  become literate.

The ending of the book is moving and uplifiting since Lynnie and Homan had always kept faith that they would eventually be together.  I felt all along the anguishes and bewilderment of Lynnie in a hostile environment and Homan continually frustated by

those around him.  The author was clever in bringing these characters so vividly to life.  A quote from the book illustrates the vulnerability of Lynnie’s soul  and gives a summary of the book  “The child who couldn’t stay with her family, The mother who couldn’t keep her child.  The woman who’d waited a lifetime for a man who could never return>”

Rachel Simon is an award-winning author, public speaker and sister of a woman with an intellectual disability.  Her  bestselling memoir “Riding the Bus with my Sister” is much loved by book clubs and is on secondary school reading lists .  She lives in Delaware.

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