"The Story of Beautiful Girl" by Rachel Simon (Grand Central Publishing, May 2011, $24.99) is of an unusual couple discarded by their families and society. Lynnie, a young white woman, is developmentally disabled and Homan, an African American, cannot hear but through their own language they fall deeply in love while held in captivity of the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded. The couple manages to escape and find refuge in the accepting hands of Martha, a retired schoolteacher and widow who helps them hide their baby from the authorities. "The Story of Beautiful Girl" is a portrayal of what families used to do when faced with a child with disabilities. Here in her novel full of pathos, Simon shows us what love, forgiveness and redemption can do for our souls.
The setting of "Faith" by Jennifer Haigh (Harper Collins, May 2011, $25.99) reminds me of the movie "The Fighter," taking place in an Irish-American neighborhood of Boston with a family of secrets and denial. Art McGann is a much loved pastor in his suburban neighborhood when he becomes one of many priests who have been accused of molesting a child. Art's younger sister returns home to help free her brother of the accusations only to walk into a family nest of secrets, denial and betrayal. Through ambitious writing and emotion, Haigh shows us that forgiveness can help us heal and move forward. "Faith" is a strong work that will make one think about how harmful secrets can be.
"The Arrivals" by Meg Mitchell Moore (Reagan Arthur Books, May 2011, $24.99) is funny, heart-wrenching and a depiction of every family's nightmare all at the same time. Ginny and William Owens have retired into their peaceful life in Burlington, VT., when one by one their adult children return, bringing all their problems. Nerves are jangled, the kitchen is a sticky mess with unwashed dishes everywhere and William and Ginny find that their quiet, content life as grandparents has taken a huge step backward, at first. The true-to-life dialogue makes the reader feel as though they could be in this story as any one of the characters. Moore has nailed the family dynamic on the head in "Arrivals" and writes this as a novel so familiar to us all that we cannot let go until the very end.
Annie Philbrick is the co-owner of Bank Square Books, Inc., 53 West Main St., Mystic. 860-536-3795; www.banksquarebooks.com