Saturday, April 13, 2013

“Take what you've learned and love someone again. Find someone to love and love without condition. This is why we're all here.” ~ Lisa Genova, Love Anthony

The return home from a few months away means a return to routine things - knitting group, cooking group (next week!) and book group to name a few.  It has been good to see my old friends from home!

My book group met the other evening to discuss the third book by Lisa Genova that we have read.  Each of the three are very powerful, very different, and stories that hang with you long after you turn the final page.

The first book that we read several years ago was Still Alice.  I hated that book - and couldn't put it down.  

"Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children and a house on the Cape, is a celebrated Harvard professor at the height of her career when she notices a forgetfulness creeping into her life. As confusion starts to cloud her thinking and her memory begins to fail her, she receives a devastating diagnosis: early onset Alzheimer's disease."

I think it's fair to say that this story frightened us as well as sparked spirited conversation.

The second Lisa Genova book was Left Neglected.

"Sarah Nickerson, like any other working mom, is busy trying to have it all. One morning while racing to work and distracted by her cell phone, she looks away from the road for one second too long. In that blink of an eye, all the rapidly moving parts of her over-scheduled life come to a screeching halt. After a brain injury steals her awareness of everything on her left side, Sarah must retrain her mind to perceive the world as a whole."

A certainly amazing story of tragedy and of regaining life, this did not affect me in the same way as Still Alice. It didn't feel as real as the 50-something woman descending into Alzheimer's.  A good story - but not one that frightened me.

Next has come her most recent, Love Anthony.

"Olivia Donatelli’s dream of a “normal” life shattered when her son, Anthony, was diagnosed with autism at age three. He didn’t speak. He hated to be touched. He almost never made eye contact. And just as Olivia was starting to realize that happiness and autism could coexist, Anthony was gone.

Now she’s alone on Nantucket, desperate to find meaning in her son’s short life, when a chance encounter with another woman brings Anthony alive again in a most unexpected way.

In a warm, deeply human story reminiscent of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and Daniel Isn’t TalkingNew York Times bestselling author Lisa Genova offers us two unforgettable women on the verge of change and the irrepressible young boy with autism whose unique wisdom helps them both find the courage to move on."

The Amazon summary above neglects to clearly mention the other woman in this story, Beth.  Beth is a  wife and mother of three girls, also living on Nantucket, who discovers that her husband has been having an affair. Beth's and Olivia's paths ultimately cross, bringing to each a piece of a puzzle that they are desperately looking for.

It would be very easy to label this an "autism story", but it is not.  It is a story of friendship, forgiveness and resilience.  Unlike her first two stories, this one feels more like a real "story".  There a relatively few medical explanations for what is going on (perhaps one of the greatest frustrations with autism), and this allows the anguish of both women to feel more real to me.

To move away from the story, I think that it was perhaps a coincidence that this book was chosen during Autism Awareness Month. One does not have to look too far to hear or see or read about individuals with autism.  Current statistics are alarming - nearly one in every 50 children is considered to fall somewhere on the autism disorder spectrum - and this rate has been on the rise for the past several years.  There is rampant debate as to its cause - environmental, genetic, innoculations - which I will not get into here.  The reality is - while there are certainly better means of identify individuals with autism, the numbers are still clearly on the rise. 

In my 30-year teaching career, I primarily taught students with disabilities.  Nowhere in my education decades before, had I received training in, or knowledge of, autism.  My last few years in the classroom found me teaching a handful of students who were somewhere on the autism spectrum.  I went to some workshops, read some articles, but I was mostly "flying by the seat of my pants" and relying on 30 years of practical experience as a teacher and a parent.  Younger, newly graduating teachers have much more training and experience - thank goodness.  I loved the students that I worked with, but saw the daily struggles that they and their loving parents went through - much like Olivia, David and Anthony.  If autism has not hit you close to home yet, statistics predict that it's not far behind.  Education now, early intervention now, are vitally important.  

I felt that Love Anthony, was a wonderful story on its own, without being a book to bring light to the issues and concerns of autism.  However - it does bring light. If you know of someone with an autistic child, are a parent, are an educator (regular or special education), consider reading this book.   It brings such a human touch to autism.  Thank you to Lisa Genova for that.

Below is a very recent article that I think you will find touching.  Also, a video clip of Lisa Genova talking about her book.  If the clip does not come through via e-mail, please go directly to my blog.


  1. I have a blog friend who has autistic triplets.
    Her name is Betsy and she is amazing.

    1. I enjoyed looking through your friend, Betsy's, blog. What an incredibly strong, loving, and resilient woman.

    2. I, too, adore Betsy's blog. She has an amazing spirit and I am in awe of her charming stories about her life with 3 grown autistic boys.

  2. Still Alice has been on my reading list, and now, thanks to your post, Love Anthony. Maybe this year?

  3. I can't tell how much I envy you and your book club. This is something I really must do. I really should find a book club in this area and settle into lovely monthly meet ups. I've pushed books aside for these last few years of homeschooling in fear that I will be tucked away somewhere unable to come out of whatever book world I've slipped into. I have to read so much for my son's high school courses that my mind can't fit any more in at the end of the day right now. I do indulge in documentaries in the evenings, either as part of school or just for myself.

    It's funny, my daughter has had to limit her number of books/week in her first year of college. When she comes home for holidays, it is such a release for her to delve into as many books as she can fit in! I could see a family vacation for our family...two boys (1 of those is a husband) hooked up to their gaming systems and my daughter and I lost in a stack of books!

    1. Honestly, till my son went away to college, I didn't belong to any "groups". Now though - there's my knitting group, my cooking group, my birthday group and my book group! Your time is coming Sarah!