Have you ever read a book so expertly woven together you were physically unable to put it down? Where you told yourself you’d go to bed after “this paragraph”, which turned into “this page” and finally, “this chapter.” Have you ever been so fortunate? I have – and the one I’ve just consumed, The Story of Beautiful Girl, by Rachel Simon, might be the tastiest novel I’ve ever read.
The Story of Beautiful Girl is an enchanting love story as vibrant and real as anything I’ve read or experienced. Full of dark secrets and sweet romantic moments, selfless actions and uncertain destinies, fringe characters and lovers you’ll never forget, it is a tale that draws you close to every individual on the page, from Lynnie and Homan, sweethearts with disabilities, to Kate, a benevolent social worker, to Martha, a lonely widow who takes in Lynnie’s newborn baby. Separated at the very opening of the book, their forty year journey to reunite takes readers through the realities of life in an institution for the “feebleminded”, the cruelties of those who insist they have no conscience, and the trials of those who, against all odds, commit to doing the right thing. The story doesn’t hesitate to show the compromises we hope to never make, the challenges we pray we’ll never have to meet, the struggles of ordinary people who decide to rise to a most unordinary occasion, and the friends and allies we might make along the way. Ms. Simon accomplishes this all with the warmth and heart of a wise and careful storyteller.
This was a novel I’d been waiting to read. Rachel Simon also wrote Riding the Bus With My Sister and The House on Teacher’s Lane, two books which I’ve adored and have reviewed on my website. She has never disappointed me when it comes to her skill at creating a book whose pages must be turned. I’ve also been reading Ms. Simon’s blog, which, this winter, took readers into the rare and exciting world of a pre-sale book tour. Arranged and paid for by her publisher, occurring months before The Story of Beautiful Girl was released, the pre-sale tour took Rachel Simon to multiple cities across the country, where she enjoyed many lovely dinners with prominent booksellers. The goal was to introduce these supporters of books to a new work of fiction too important to be missed.
The goal seems to have worked. The Story of Beautiful Girl hit the New York Times Bestseller list only two weeks after its release. Booksellers across the country have lavished praise upon it, calling it “profound,” “captivating,” “unforgettable,” “a story told with understanding, insight, compassion and filled with the grace of human kindness,” with a “happy ending [that] makes one believe in humanity once again.” You should certainly read her blog for all the details about the tour. The praise from booksellers can be found on her website.
If I hadn’t already known about The Story of Beautiful Girl, the cover alone would have caught my attention immediately. The bold silhouette and tendrilled fairy-tale title font only hint at the lushness of the of the design. In person, the pearlescent, satin paper and raised, multi-colored lettering bring more dimension to an already gorgeous wrapping. This cover was so striking that when CBS Sunday Morning had an episode focusing on cover art in the publishing industry, this design was one of their highlights.
I’ve never had such a difficult time writing a review as I have with this one. I’d love to divulge all the details of why this marvelous book is so important, and all the ways it can alter your perception of what you believed to be true about those dark corners of society most of us never see. But I have held back because I do not want to destroy any of the mystery or magic which The Story of Beautiful Girl holds.
So I offer you this. Go to www.RachelSimon.com and read the first chapter of this magnificent tale. You have my assurance that you’ll want to read just one more paragraph, one more page, one more chapter – and that, if you then pick it up and read the whole thing, you’ll be as enchanted and moved as I’ve been.
….the story behind The Story of Beautiful Girl. An interview with author Rachel Simon & Allen Zuk of Canadian Manda Group.
Special thanks to Rachel Simon for her assistance in the editing of my review. Her students were fortunate indeed to have such a lovely and gracious professor.
….now go buy the book. : ) barbie.