Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Love Anthony by Lisa Genova

No, I didn't finish the Sunday papers. Instead, I finished my digital copy of Lisa Genova's latest novel Love Anthony, before it could disappear from my nook. You will get a chance to put this book on hold next week when it is released to the public and yes, I suspect the list will be long based upon Ms. Genova's reputation and her two previous books, Still Alice, the superior novel in my opinion, and Left Neglected.

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For those unfamiliar with Lisa Genova, you should understand that she is a biopsychologist and a Harvard degreed neuroscientist. Her background in these areas informs all of her fiction but I wonder if it's becoming more and more difficult for her to formulate stories around diseases of the brain. It is her strength while crafting believable conversations among friends, especially married couples, appears to be a weakness.

Still Alice was an outstanding, emotional read, a truly realistic and informative look at early onset Alzheimer's disease and its insidiously slow, lethal effect on the brain. More than that, it examined the families lost in the uncertainties of how to deal with the possibility that it is a disease that's genetically predisposed.

In Left Neglected readers were introduced to a rare form of brain injury and a tough woman's ability to readjust her way of life to the new reality that one side of her brain will no longer respond to commands.

Autism is at the heart of Ms. Genova's latest novel. Olivia and her husband David have separated under the formidable financial and psychological strain of trying to "fix" their son Anthony. When the book opens Anthony has died and Olivia has escaped to Nantucket to try to heal and to fathom why God would send this broken child to her only to take him away after ten short years.

The windswept desolation of the island, deserted from October to June, is gorgeously rendered and one can palpably sense the restorative nature of long, bruising walks on the gray beach. Ironically, it is that same warm, summer beach where Olivia and Anthony spent hours collecting and lining up white shells and stones, that enabled the chance encounter with Beth, a young woman who will change Olivia's life.

Beth is also a woman in transition, trying to decide if she can reconnect with her husband Jimmy, the father of her three girls, who had an affair with a co-worker. As they meet with their counselor and try to re-establish a sense of trust, Beth realizes that she has subsumed her pre-marriage and family interests to the detriment of her own sense of well being. She was a writer and it's to writing that she returns for renewal and salvation.

And it's Beth's novel, the novel within the novel, that is the strongest part of the book. Miraculously she manages to channel a child with autism, a boy who cannot communicate with words but whose inner life is roiling with thoughts and ideas. I'll leave it up to you readers to decide whether Genova's knowledge of the inner workings of Anthony's brain is based on scientific fact or on faith alone.

2 comments:

Lisa May said...

More books for my TBR list. This is becoming a dangerous place to visit :)

Sallyb said...

Fantastic! My whole house is made up of piles of books. Looks like yours is too.