Book review: Love Anthony
Author: Lisa Genova
Excerpt: And so there we were, the two of us lying on the deck together, smiling at the sky. And as the sun moved on, and our square turned to shade. Anthony sat up and shot me a sideways glance and a pleased grin that I swear said, Wasn’t that AWESOME, Mom? Didn’t you have the best time looking up at the sky with me? And then he screeched and flapped his hands and ran into the house. Yes, it was, Anthony. It was one of the best times I’ve ever had.
In her third novel, author Lisa Genova combines her bold storytelling with her academic background to give autism a voice. From the best-selling author of Still Alice and Left Neglected comes Love Anthony, a poignant tale of unconditional love, loss and acceptance.
The two main characters, Beth and Olivia, are left dealing with life-changing losses. Beth’s husband has recently left her for another woman while she struggles to come to terms with his affair and rediscover herself. Olivia’s life has been on hold since her son Anthony died, leaving her with so many unanswered questions: what was the purpose of his life, why did he have to have autism, was he happy?
To lend a credible and believable voice to Anthony, who is non-verbal communicative at the severe end of the spectrum, Genova immersed herself in research. Consulting colleagues (she holds a PhD in neuroscience from Harvard), clinicians, and parents of children with autism, Genova manages to beautifully articulate the thoughts of a young boy, without sounding forced or romanticized.
Over the course of the novel, the two protagonists discover their commonality, Anthony, and a friendship that forms hesitantly grows into a shared experience. As Beth struggles to finish a novel that desperately needs an ending, Olivia creeps closer to unlocking the key to Anthony’s mind.
The same way Still Alice gave a fresh perspective to Alzheimer’s, Love Anthony gives readers an intimate glimpse at autism, giving voice and thoughts to the person living with it. Both main characters further the story and understanding of the ups and downs of autism: one who has lived with it firsthand and is trying to find peace with it, and the other who couldn’t relate to autism until her life was touched by it.
While the novel incorporates themes of self-discovery and understanding, the greater message is acceptance and personal growth from life’s challenges.
This week’s Book Bar book review was contributed by Lindsay Mcpherson.