The Story Of Beautiful Girl is one of the titles in the Richard and Judy Book Club Spring 2012 selection. This bookclub is exclusive to W.H Smith and the selected books are reviewed by Richard and Judy. If you buy the book from W.H Smith you also get bonus exclusive content in the book.
The Story Of Beautiful Girl begins in 1968 in Pennsylvania, in small town America. Martha is a retired schoolteacher and a widow who lives alone. One dark and stormy November night she is startled by a knock at the door. She opens it to find a bedraggled man and woman. The woman is wrapped in layers of blankets and the man is an African American, who is deaf. Although scared Martha invites them in and offers them hospitality. She makes them tea, cookies and gives them new clothes, soon realising the woman is sheltering a new born baby.
Another knock indicates the arrival of the authorities. Martha learns that the couple have come from The State School for the Incurable and Feeble Minded. The woman is wrapped in a strait jacket and taken away, managing to whisper the words “Hide Her” to Martha. The man manages to escape across the fields and is pursued. Before the woman is removed Martha learns that she is called Lynnie and the man is only known as Number 42. As Lynnie is taken away Martha manages to assure her that she will look after the baby without alerting the authorities to her presence.
This is the start of an epic story that spans forty years. We follow each of the characters in the story and find how their lives turn out. Martha, has to manage with a new baby that she names Julia. Worried that the authorities may find out about the baby and chase her she disappears. She makes use of her network of old pupils to find a place to stay. We follow Lynnie as she is returned to The State School and learn about the conditions that people with disabilities were subjected to in thos days. Number 42, or Homan as we learn his name is is on the run and has a long journey to get back to Lynnie or as he calls her “Beautiful Girl”.
The story is absorbing and you get involved with each of the characters and want to know what is going to happen next. It throws a light on the way that people with disabilities were treated at the time, which is not really that long ago. It was thought that these people would be better off in an institution, but the conditions at the institution are revealed for what they are. The place is filthy and corrupt and the residents are frequently terrorised by the guards. We see the viewpoint of both Lynnie and Homan as they have to cope in the world and this really brings out their humanity and makes you wonder why they were treated like this.
There is hope in the book, though the forty year story we see changes occurring at the institution and in the characters lives. Throughout all the changes Lynnie and Homan carry the memories of their stolen time together and hopes for their daughter. Martha gives up everything to protect their daughter and give her a life worth living. It is a moving book and definitely well worth reading.
The book is published by Windmill Books and available to buy at W.H Smiths here: http://www.whsmith.co.uk/CatalogAndSearch/ProductDetails.aspx?productID=35569435