No loving mother would want to see her children in a difficult situation or have a condition that was detrimental to their quality of life. Olivia is faced with grief every day from her autistic boy’s death and wonders what his purpose in life was if he spent it on earth with a disability, then passing away at an early age. She wants to know why he existed at all, since he caused so much pain in her heart and tore apart her marriage with her now ex-husband, David. The answers do not come quick enough (despite trying to consult the town priest), but they do come eventually.
The solution is disguised in the form of Beth, who lives in the same town as Olivia, on Nantucket Island. Beth has three girls (Sophie, Jessica and Gracie) with her husband Jimmy but we find out early on in the story that he has cheated on her and she decides to kick him out of the house.
Unbeknownst to either woman, Beth and Olivia have seen each other before on the beach years ago but this only comes to light once they make a connection through Beth’s novel and Olivia’s skill in photography.
Both women are dealing with a void in their life and they each decide to take on a hobby for inspiration. Beth does this by writing a fictitious account of an autistic boy and Olivia’s outlet for finding some peace is through doing beach portraits. A strong bond is formed between them when Beth asks Olivia for her photo services and also if she wouldn’t mind editing her first book (Olivia used to be an editor at a publishing company).
The way Genova’s tale builds to the conclusion and ultimately ends, will either make you cry or make you roll your eyes (depending on what you believe in). I couldn’t help but actually shed some tears. This third story from Genova did not grab me at first like her other work but as the novel moved along, I began to realize her whole point. Even though unconditional love is supposed to be the moral of the book, I really felt that it was also about appreciating the littlest things that can make one happy and respecting the fact that different people will have their own ways of embracing happiness. Olivia learns how Anthony felt truly blessed in his own world, despite society feeling sorry for his condition.
All serious issues aside, Genova has the knack to weave humor into ALL her books and Love Anthony was no different. I only have to mention when Olivia explains Anthony’s hand flapping as a fundamental behavior, since he was born into an Italian family (“He’s Italian! Of course he speaks with his hands”). The scene where Beth and Jimmy first meet with Dr. Campbell is also there for comic relief (recall the things Beth thinks about and Oscar the falcon).
I’ll admit that I thought this book would be different than what it was, but I can’t say I was disappointed. Did you prefer Genova’s other titles, or did you enjoy all of them equally?
To read reviews on Love Anthony, please click on the links below.
From Kirkus Reviews:
For information about Lisa Genova, click below:
Below are provided some questions for you to answer after reading the book:
-How much did you know about this condition before starting Love Anthony? Do you know anyone who has autism or an autistic person in their family?
-What do you think of Beth’s epilogue? Do you think it provides a satisfying ending to her story? To the novel as a whole?
To see the rest of the questions, I have given the link to the Litlovers website:
I never knew that autism was frequently coupled with seizures or epilepsy. In Genova’s story, Anthony is known to have had seizures and as a result—dies from one. This shocked me even more, so I did some research to see if this actually does happen and I found out that it isn’t uncommon. However, some autistic individuals with no history of seizures occasionally die from unknown causes as well. For more information about this, please see the article from the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative website:
This book reminded me of …
Several titles were swimming in my mind while reading this novel. In Web of Angels, I remember the part where Sharon goes to therapy with her husband and in Love Anthony, Beth and Jimmy attend couples therapy because of their marital situation. Both stories use the example of the “happy family” picture that everyone sees on the outside, while unknowingly there are issues inside the home. Olivia reading her journal and reliving the years she experienced while Anthony was alive, reminded me of how the journal excerpts in The Imposter Bride was important to reveal certain information about the past. Meanwhile, the chapters that are written in Anthony’s voice almost match the voice of Jack in Room. There is the same childlike point of view and you get to see what they are really thinking. Of course, I would have to mention The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, only because it also focuses on an autistic boy, but he is not so severely affected as Anthony is.
Favorite quote from book:
“No, they most certainly weren’t fine after that day. But how could anyone be? That would be like throwing a glass vase against a brick wall and expecting it not to smash into a thousand broken pieces, acting surprised and upset that it no longer holds water. The vase will always shatter. That’s what happens when glass hits brick. It’s not the vase’s fault.” (p. 47-48)
Most insightful moment in the story:
There were many parts in the book where I was amazed at how an autistic mind might be thinking (especially one that cannot express thoughts through words). For this reason, there are two moments that I just have to mention. First off, I just loved how Anthony describes his own autism (p. 223-226). We really get to understand how it possibly works. The second moment is when his infatuation with numbers comes to light as he talks about his favorite story, Three Little Pigs. His observation with that tale and the number 3 is very in-depth. (p. 240-241)
Next month’s title:
Proof of Heaven by Mary Curran Hackett