Release Date: September 25, 2012
Format: Audiobook, 9h 11m
Narrated By: Debra Messing
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Source: purchased from Audible.com
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 was a beautiful story. I instantly loved both Beth and Olivia’s characters and felt fully connected with both of them for different reasons. I could feel both of these women as if they were sitting in the seat next to me. Their stories are told separately through most of the book, in alternating chapters, but they do run into eachother at times. Beth’s perfect family is falling apart when she learns that her husband is having an affair. Olivia’s run to Nantucket to get away from her husband and mourn the loss of her son. Olivia’s backstory is heartbreaking – as I learned about Anthony and how it affected both her and her marriage, I wanted to reach out and hug her. I loved the way that the author worked Beth’s novel into the book – once she started writing, chapters (or parts of chapters) were from Beth’s book, and it was the most beautiful part of the whole novel. Beth writes from an autistic boy’s point-of-view, explaining what is going on inside his head. I actually believe that this is probably the closest anyone has ever gotten to explaining what it’s like to be living with autism. I’ve only had small dealings with autism, but from what I’ve watched in movies, read in books, and observed in real life, I think that this book has hit the mark about what it’s like being a parent of an autistic child and what just may be going on inside that child’s head. Lisa Genova did an excellent job writing an intricate story about such a delicate matter – this book has become one of my favorite books.
As this was an audiobook, I wanted to mention that Debra Messing did a great job in narrating. At first I had a hard time with her voice because she spoke softly and at points when either Beth or Olivia would mutter, so would Messing, and I wouldn’t be able to hear. Either I got used to it, or she started speaking louder and clearer as the book went on. She put just the right amount of emotion into the characters, just the right inflections so you knew who was speaking without the “Beth said”, “Jimmy said” that other books maintain throughout.
I wanted this book to keep going. I wanted to hear more from Anthony’s point of view. I literally wanted to be friends with these two women. After reading this book and her debut novel, Still Alice, I’ve officially put Lisa Genova on my list of favorite authors.
My Rating: 5 stars