Saturday, April 23, 2011
THE STORY OF BEAUTIFUL GIRL
THE STORY OF BEAUTIFUL GIRL is the tale of Lynnie Goldberg and John Doe Number 42, also known as Homan. It's 1968 and both are residents of The Pennsylvania State School for the Incurable and Feebleminded. Lynnie is developmentally disabled and Homan is deaf, but despite their differences and finding their own way to communicate, they fall in love.
The story begins on a dark and rainy night after Lynnie and Homan escape from the institution. They seek refuge at the remote farm of Martha Zimmer, a retired school teacher. After hiding the infant Lynnie has just given birth to, Homan is able to escape while Lynnie is returned to the school by the authorities, but not before beseeching the childless Martha to keep the newborn safe.
Not knowing Lynnie's name, Homan is determined to find a way back to The Beautiful Girl. Confined to the state school, Lynnie lives through the changes wrought by the media exposure of the deplorable conditions of these state run institutions for the handicapped in the '70s. She never gives up on her hope of being reunited with both Homan and her child.
Devoting her life to baby Julia, Martha has left the farm and relied on her former students to provide her with shelter so that the school authorities cannot find the baby. Not even knowing the names of the two people who showed up on her doorstep, she nevertheless prays that some day she'll be able to reunite Julia with her parents. Martha becomes the catalyst for change in these institutions, echoing the real life changes brought about by Geraldo Rivera's expose of the horrendous conditions at The Willowbrook School in 1972.
Ms. Simon's sweeping love story spans nearly fifty years. Her tender handling of her protagonists reflects her care and concern for her own intellectually handicapped sister. Nicely written, I enjoyed THE STORY OF BEAUTIFUL GIRL.