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Book Club – The Story of Beautiful Girl

Well, what did y’all think of our latest read?

I thought it was okay.  I went into this book with no expectations, but still managed to be disappointed by the time I finished.  It was just so sad all around and the last 3 or 4 chapters were rushed – I thought the author could’ve done a better job with the way she “distributed” her story.  We got a lot of details in the beginning of the book and by the end, it seemed like she was tired of writing and wrapped it up as quickly as possible.

The book did give me pause when I realized that this fictionalized story could very well have happened.  The treatment of non-neuronormative (look at me being all PC) people has come a long way in this society though no doubt, there’s plenty of room for improvement in the way those with challenges are treated – both inside and outside of facilities and group homes.  And poor Homan – outside of his hearing loss, there was nothing wrong with him and yet he’d been institutionalized because no one took time to properly assess his status.

Anyhow, I borrowed a few questions from the guide at the back of the book.  Feel free to answer any/all of these or just let your thoughts flow free.  As always, I’ll be back throughout the course of the day to read y’alls comments and to add more of my own.

1.  What did you learn that you didn’t already know about the history of people with disabilities and the ways they were routinely treated by society?

2.  Martha’s former students provide her with support for the first several years of Julia’s life. Was there a teacher in your life who meant as much to you as Martha meant to her students?

3.  Why do you think Martha took on the incredible responsibility of raising another woman’s child instead of contacting proper authorities? What would you have done in her place?

4.  Homan is up against incredible odds in making his way in the world, especially once his uncle Blue dies. Discuss the way that race, impairment, illiteracy, and institutionalization play a part in how he interacts with the world and how the world reacts to him.

Anywho, let’s get into it – what did you think?

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10 thoughts on “Book Club – The Story of Beautiful Girl

  1. I refuse to read 95% of book covers so I had no idea what it was about until I started reading it. I loved it! I was all in from the first chapter! But I absolutely see your point about poor distribution of story. There were parts at the beginning and toward the middle that dragged with an overabundance of unnecessary detail that bogged the story down. But I was so shocked by the discoveries at the end that I cried! (I used to be hard, y’all.) I wanted to know more about what happened where the book ended that I wanted it to not have ended.

    1) I’ve seen a number of docs about the treatment of non-neuronormative people in state facilities so I wasn’t at all surprised.
    2) Two of my undergrad professors and multiple grad professors were all of that to me. I would definitely help them however they needed it.
    3) There were a surprising number of unformalized adoptions around that time. More than we’ll ever know since adoptions were sometimes secretive and even shameful. My father-in-law was “adopted” in one of these adoptions. A Native American girl had a baby with a black man, gave the baby (my FIL) to a nurse who “adopted” him. There was no formal adoption. The nurse and her husband (Rashan’s grandparents) are on the birth certificate. We know next to nothing about my FIL’s birth parents. Him and his adoptive parents are dead. In.sane. Today, I would adopt a child with this need but it would have to be official.
    4) Race & impairment were the biggest impediments to his interactions with the world. Infuriatingly so. #42?!? And the fact that no effort whatsoever was made to find out who he was. UGH!! How many people were separated from their families like this?? The illiteracy & institutionalization became ancillary but crucial issues once he was on the run. I was baffled by his inability to count money or read a map. HOW WILL HE GET BACK!? I was on pins and needles this entire book!

    • You faux gangster you! I There was a point in the book (can’t remember where now) that I thought “I think this where I’m supposed to cry” but I didn’t so…

      You were blessed to have that sort of relationship with your professors. I can only think of two teachers in all of my years of schooling for whom I would possibly jump through hoops.

      I wasn’t surprised at all by the off-the-books adoption – I was actually taken aback that such lengths were gone through by Martha to hide the baby, though in the context of the story it makes sense. Heck, it’s 2012 and if someone I knew showed up with a baby and said the mom left it with them I wouldn’t question it.

      I will admit – I got most caught up in Homan’s journey and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how he was going to make it from San Francisco back to Pennsylvania – especially once he and Sam lost contact and he ended up with a bunch of pot smoking hippies!!!

      Let me tell you what really ran me hot – when the guard – can’t remember his name – turned out to be a pitiful old drunk. I always want people to get justice, but not of the “oh, he’s pitiful” sort – I want them to be fully conscious of the misery that is their life and I think being deadened to that awareness strikes me as not quite fair. They know, but they don’t know like I want them to know.

      • Oh yeah I totally didn’t get why on earth she ran all over creation with that child. LOL @ I think this is where I’m supposed to cry! This is why you password protected that post w/too $hort’s fave word! Thug! It depends on the person re: adoption. I probably wouldn’t blink on the right person but I’m sure I know a psycho I would be like now where did you get this child??? Someone GAVE it to you?? That don’t sound right. *googles missing babies*

        OMG I was so pissed when the guard was pitiful and they just left. REALLY!?! High roads are boring. MOST boring in books. Who gets to track down and derail their rapist? Justice of that sort is rare IRL. Make it happen in the book!

  2. I was fascinated by the book cover blurb — blind white woman, deaf black man, on the run from an institution with an infant. Right. It sounded so crazy I thought it might be worth the read.

    I was captivated from the beginning and it was close to a page turner for me. I liked the character development. I like the way we were taken further and further into the psyche of the characters. They were developed independently and united to wrap up the missing information.

    I bemoan the treatment of the — what was that big word y’all used as a identifier —
    non-neuronormative. We are guilty of acting and reacting out of stereotypes. In most case there is no foundation just emotion.

    I have had the opportunity to unofficially “adopt” babies from both side of family. I feel confident that I/we could have done an excellent job parenting my husband’s niece. But we were advised by family to let the process work its self to an end. Then I could have adopted nieces and nephews from my side. Again we let that work itslef to a conclusion. I am always a little of those who can invite adopted ones (family and strangers) into a nurturing home.

    Martha NEEDED the fulfillment of purpose that a baby’s dependence brings. Her lack of experience was compensated for by the loving attention she had covered her students with.

    Cry? No. But I did feel a satisfaction with the details being brought together so I could appreciate everyone’s perspective in life and on life.

    • No one was blind ma’am.

      LOL – we’re discussing neuro-normative (or not) a lot at work right now. They just keep inventing PC terms – I can’t keep up with them.

      Wait. Who were you going to adopt? We need to talk!

      How did you like the way the book ended?

  3. When this book was announced…I raced to reserve it from the library and was delighted that it came within 3 days of my reserving. I was a bit concerned I would read too fast and not remember details.

    Well…my excitement quickly ceased. I thought the author lost her way for a bit and I thought the premise was awesome! It was like she was lost and then decided…let me get the h#ll on and finish this book so I can do laundry. That was a RUSHED,unfullfilling ending to me.

    1. I think I was most surprised by how recent these events were! I knew the warehousing of “special” people were done…but jeez. Talk about being left to just die. And the horrible beatings, rapes, etc? That is just cruel. I can’t imagine being rich and just dropping my child off and then leaving her to inherit? That made no sense to me. It would be one thing if she was completely forgotten…but she wasn’t. They just didn’t want to associate with her. Sad. Very sad.

    2. No ma’am! Teachers I liked…but I am not going to jail for anyone. Much less a teacher. She was lucky…I would have dropped a dime on her baby stealing self.

    3. I think Martha took the responsibility because she was lonely and this was her second chance. I don’t think it was so much about Lynnie and promising her as much as it was about Martha having her child since her husband was so cold and weird.

    4. What confused me so much about Homan (other than his dumb name) was the fact that he wasn’t retar…I mean spec…or non-neurblahblahblah! Why couldn’t he make himself be understood? I understand he was black..but really? No one would listen to him? That seemed a bit more exaggerated than likely to me. I thought his trials and tribulations would have read more realistic if it was still slave times or something. Old boy was normal up until 10 or so right? Just thought that was odd that they called him 42 when he should have been able to write his name.

    Overall I would give this book a solid 5. It wasn’t horrible but the premise made it sound just more intriguing. Honestly for me, it got boring. 30 years is a lot of time to fill with experiences that were frustrating and sad. I just wanted them to get together. The end was so rushed! And I daresay…would they really have been so in love 30 years later now that they both had skills? And Lynnie had a real network? I just don’t see it.

    Looking forward to next book!

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