Love Anthony by Lisa Genova
Published by Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
Review copy provided by the publicist
From the publisher:
Olivia Donatelli’s dream of a “normal” life shattered when her son, Anthony, was diagnosed with autism at age three. Understanding the world from his perspective felt bewildering, nearly impossible. 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 died.
Now she’s alone in a cottage on Nantucket, separated from her husband, desperate to understand the meaning of her son’s short life, when a chance encounter with another woman facing her own loss brings Anthony alive again for Olivia in a most unexpected way.
Beth Ellis’s entire life changed with a simple note: “I’m sleeping with Jimmy.” Fourteen years of marriage. Three beautiful daughters. Yet even before her husband’s affair, she had never felt so alone. Heartbroken, she finds the pieces of the vivacious, creative person she used to be packed away in a box in her attic. For the first time in years, she uncaps her pen, takes a deep breath, and begins to write. The young but exuberant voice that emerges onto the page is a balm to the turmoil within her, a new beginning, and an astonishing bridge back to herself.
Lisa Genova’s previous two books have received a lot of buzz, but I hadn’t read anything by her before so I wasn’t sure what to expect with Love Anthony. Unfortunately, though, I was expecting to kind of love it (since everyone raves about her as an author), so I was slightly disappointed when I didn’t fall in love with this novel. I did enjoy it, it just wasn’t the gem of a book I was hoping for.
Love Anthony is about two women, both struggling with huge losses in their lives and trying to create new realities for themselves. On the outside, you wouldn’t think they have much in common – one a newly single mom with three young daughters, the other a woman with no living children and whose marriage dissolved years ago. However, as the story goes on, it’s clear they have much in common and their lives end up intertwining in a unique and unexpected way.
While I liked both Olivia and Beth, I couldn’t quite connect to either one of them. I think part of it is because my life is so vastly different from their circumstances – I have never had children, have never been through a divorce, etc – but part of it may just be the way the characters came across the page. While I wanted to connect with them, and I definitely cared about their stories and wanted to see them through, I just felt that they were both at arm’s length from me throughout the book.
The other issue I had with the novel is that I think the way the two end up connecting with one another at the end was supposed to be a surprise, and I saw it coming from almost the first page. I strongly dislike the fact that I saw this ending coming from a mile away.
However, there were many things I did like about the book. The writing was really very good and Genova really created a sense of place with the novel. I felt that I was on Nantucket with these women, I could smell the salty air and hear the waves crashing. There was one particular scene where Beth is having a family portrait taken, and I almost felt that I was right there with them as they were getting the pictures taken with the ocean as a backdrop.
Also, I listened to the audio of this one and it was performed very well. Debra Messing (of Will and Grace fame) narrated it brilliantly. She truly embodied both of these characters and I think I only kept listening after not totally loving the book because of her narration. If you plan to read this one, I highly recommend experiencing the audio.
While I didn’t fall in love with Love Anthony, I would still consider checking out the rest of Genova’s novels and I can still recommend the book if you like this type of thing. It just didn’t work perfectly for me.