From the award-winning New York Times bestselling author of Still Aliceand Left Neglected, comes a heartfelt novel about an accidental friendship that gives a grieving mother a priceless gift: the ability to understand the thoughts of her eight-year-old autistic son and make sense of his brief life.
Two women, each cast adrift by unforseen events in their lives, meet by accident on a Nantucket beach and are drawn into a friendship.
Olivia is a young mother whose eight-year-old severely autistic son has recently died. Her marriage badly frayed by years of stress, she comes to the island in a trial separation to try and make sense of the tragedy of her Anthony’s short life.
Beth, a stay-at-home mother of three, is also recently separated after discovering her husband’s long-term infidelity. In an attempt to recapture a sense of her pre-married life, she rekindles her passion for writing, determined to find her own voice again. But surprisingly, as she does so, Beth also find herself channeling the voice of an unknown boy, exuberant in his perceptions of the world around him if autistic in his expression—a voice she can share with Olivia—(is it Anthony?)—that brings comfort and meaning to them both.
Once I started this book, I could not put it down. Some of it was extremely sad and my heart hurt for the two women as they struggled in their marriages and getting on with their lives but I loved how their paths crossed and how each of them overcame hardships through Anthony's help.
There were really three stories in this book -- Olivia's, Beth's, and Anthony's. Of all the stories, my favorite was Anthony's. It was amazing how Beth gave him a voice that he has never had and whenever I read his thoughts, I could truly feel a connection with him. I felt his hardships and his happiness. I felt the love he had for his mother and the innocence he saw in the world.
There is a bit of divine intervention in this book as Olivia prays for answers and Beth's life seems to cross hers. When Beth decides to write a book about a boy with autism, she has no idea why the inspiration comes to her. Years before, Beth had seen a little boy who inspired her (Anthony) and she draws on this memory to begin her book. She becomes superstitious about when and where she can channel the story and just allows her thoughts and dreams to flow onto the paper. It becomes less about her thoughts and more about writing the boy's story that he is sharing with her.
I feel like the book's strength comes from the different perspectives throughout the story, especially between Olivia and Anthony. Olivia struggled so much to understand her son and do everything she could for him. Despite the fact that she did not get him or how he thought, she never quit trying even when she wanted to. She loved him so much. Hi life gave her so many questions that she felt were unanswered but she never gave up on him even after he died. When Anthony's voice comes to life, it allows her to find some answers to her questions as well as some questions she never even realized that she had.
Sometimes, when Olivia thought back to certain experiences, she had no idea how to handle them or what came of them, but Anthony's version made it seem so simple - so black and white. Since most people do not see the world in such black and white terms, we question things and sometimes make them harder to understand. Reading Anthony's version makes things seem so simple.
All-in-all, I thought this was a wonderful story. I cried a little and felt for the characters but I left feeling like I gained something from the book and I'm so glad I read it. It was well-written and truly hit a soft spot in my heart.