I blubbered for a while after finishing reading Love Anthony by Lisa Genova. All through the last chapter I had gulping, hiccupping sobs and big, hot, wet tears rolling down my cheeks. I was lucky enough to be home alone at the time so had a very enjoyable cry.
Love Anthony is two women’s stories, which initially are quite loosely entwined. Both women live on Nantucket Island off Massachusetts, (as already mentioned in my review of an Elin Hilderbrand novel, I love reading stories set on this island, and I intend to visit one day). Both main characters also have enormous changes to deal with in their lives.
Beth is a mother of three, who thought she was happily married until she received a card in the mail telling her that her husband was having an affair. Beth’s husband Jimmy moved out of the family home when she confronted him about his affair and in my opinion, Beth was better off without him. However, what I think was best for Beth would have meant the end of her story in the first chapter, so Beth continued on, mostly finding herself.
The other main character in this book, Olivia, came to Nantucket to grieve the death of her son, and the recent end of her marriage. Olivia’s grief is further complicated by her struggle to understand her son Anthony’s purpose in life, as Anthony was autistic. Olivia’s struggles to communicate with and to understand her son are heart-rending.
Beth and Olivia begin as ships in the night, passing each other in Nantucket so casually they are unaware of each other’s existence, even though their first encounter eventually changes both of their lives in the most wonderful way. Gradually, they become more aware of each other, as Olivia overhears a conversation Beth has with a friend in a supermarket queue, then Beth employs Olivia to take her annual family photos. Part of Beth’s finding herself involves returning to writing fiction, which she gave up when her and Jimmy’s children were born. When she learns that Olivia is a book editor, Beth asks Olivia for her professional assistance with a story she has recently started writing.
Beth’s book is written from the perspective of a boy with autism. Reading the story is a gift for Olivia, who believes Beth’s story has come directly from Anthony. Gulp. Sob.
Love Anthony has taught me about autism and the struggles of parents of autistic children without the subject being dumbed down, or the more unpleasant details being glossed over. I believe Lisa Genova’s best known book is Still Alice, which also features characters with specific medical conditions. I expect I will be seeking out Still Alice and any other books Lisa Genova has written very soon.
If you’re a softie, read Love Anthony with a big box of tissues close by. If you live on Nantucket, you can buy your tissues at the Stop & Shop, which is where the characters in this book buy their groceries, along with the hordes of tourists who visit the island in summer. Please, please, please, let me be one of them one day.