It is 1968, and two people who have long been trapped at an institution for the disabled have fallen in love. Lynnie and Homan manage to escape the “School,” but their time together lasts only a few days: the developmentally disabled Lynnie is found and taken back to the school. The deaf, older African-American Homan evades capture, but his only desire is to figure out how to get Lynnie back.
What they manage to keep secret from almost everyone is that Lynnie gave birth to a baby girl during the time she was outside the walls of the institution. They left the baby with a kind old woman who promised she would hide the baby for them; one of Lynnie’s greatest fears is that the school will find the baby and institutionalize her as well.
The Story of Beautiful Girl follows the fates of Lynnie, Homan and baby Julia over 40 years as they deal with the hands they’ve been given. Lynnie and Homan face much discrimination and misunderstanding, often mistreatment, but they also are blessed to experience kindness and generosity from those who want to help. Readers are able to understand what kind of experience the disabled had in institutions and can see how living situations have evolved over the years for them and what kind of opportunities have been offered them. Rachel Simon seems to do a good job of trying to show what it was like — and is like — to be a person with a developmental disability, or one who was mistaken for someone “slow,” like the deaf Homan. She handles her topics delicately but not necessarily with kid gloves. The novel is a fine opportunity to “learn” a little about other times and other people, but also a beautiful story in which to get lost.
Rated: Mild. There is no bad language and no sex scenes. A rape results in a pregnancy, but there are no details. There is also a brief and oblique reference to masturbation. It’s nearly a “none.”