Oh my goodness. Having a head cold is kinda miserable but kinda awesome—awesome because I was too miserable to do anything but lie in bed and read for two whole days. I read three novels. I'm thinking about maybe faking a cold each month.
The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon: I can hardly even say how much I loved this. The story is about Lynnie, a beautiful inmate at the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded; Homan, a deaf man who is also locked away there; and Martha, a widow in her 70s who becomes tangled in their lives.
Lynnie and Homan are madly in love and have managed to escape the institution—but only for long enough for Lynnie to give birth to a baby girl. They seek refuge briefly with Martha, and Lynnie begs her to hide the baby. Martha does—for decades.
The rest of the novel spans 40 years or more, reflecting on Lynnie's and Homan's childhoods and reasons for being at the institution; detailing their terrible lives within the facility; following Martha and Julia's life together; and unfolding how their lives, forever intertwined, ultimately are restored.
I absolutely loved this novel. Simon is a compassionate but not overly sentimental writer. All the characters were richly drawn and practically palpable. She has obviously done tons of research on this history of mental institutions and institutional reform. I have put her memoir Riding the Bus with My Sister, her journey of riding a bus with her intellectually disabled sister, on my TBR list. Highly recommended!