From the award-winning New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice and 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.
I'm always hearing about how my brain doesn't work right. . . . But it doesn't feel broken to me.
Olivia Donatelli's dream of a "normal" life shattered when her son, Anthony, was diagnosed with autism at age three. 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. In a piercing story about motherhood, autism, and love, Lisa Genova offers us two unforgettable women on the verge of change who discover the small but exuberant voice that helps them both find the answers they need.
"There's a point in the narrative where one of the characters becomes so engrossed in reading a book that she loses track of time. Readers of Genova's latest excellent offering might very well find the same happening to them." Kirkus
Beth is alone in her house, listening to the storm, wondering what to do next. To be fair, she's not really alone. Jimmy is upstairs sleeping. But she feels alone. It's ten in the morning, and the girls are at school, and Jimmy will sleep until at least noon. She's curled up on the couch, sipping hot cocoa from her favorite blue mug, watching the fire in the fireplace, and listening.
Rain and sand spray against the windows like an enemy attacking. Wind chimes gong repetitive, raving-mad music, riding gusts from some distant neighbor's yard. The wind howls like a desperately mournful animal. A desperately mournful wild animal. Winter storms on Nantucket are wild. Wild and violent. They used to scare her, but that was years ago when she was new to this place.
The radiator hisses. Jimmy snores.
She has already done the laundry, the girls won't be home for several hours, and it's too early yet to start dinner. She's grateful she did the grocery shopping yesterday. The whole house needs to be vacuumed, but she'll wait until after Jimmy is up. He didn't get home from work until after 2:00 a.m.
She wishes she had the book for next month's book club. She keeps forgetting to stop by the library to check it out. This month's book was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. It was a quick read, a murder mystery narrated by an autistic teenage boy. She liked it and was especially fascinated by the main character's strange inner world, but she hopes the next one will be a bit lighter. They typically choose more serious literature for book club, but she could use a pleasant escape into a hot summer romance right about now. They all could.
A loud bang against the back of the house startles her. Grover, their black Lab, lifts his head from where he's been sleeping on the braided rug.
"It's okay, Grove. It's just Daddy's chair."
Knowing a big storm was on its way, she told Jimmy to take his chair in last night before he left for work. It's his "cigar-smoking" chair. One of the summer residents left it on the side of the road in September with a sign taped to it that read FREE, and Jimmy couldn't resist it. The thing is trash. It's a cedar Adirondack chair. In most places on Earth, that chair could weather a lifetime, but on Nantucket, the salty, humid air eventually degrades everything but the densest man-made composite materials. Everything needs to be extraordinarily tough to survive here. And probably more than a little dense.
Jimmy's moldy, corroded chair belongs at the dump or at least in the garage, as Beth wisely suggested last night. But instead, the wind has just lifted it off the ground and heaved it against the house. She thinks about getting up and hauling the chair into the garage herself, but then she thinks better of it. Maybe the storm will smash it to pieces. Of course, even if this happens, Jimmy will just find some other chair to sit in while he smokes his smelly cigars.
She sits and tries to enjoy her cocoa, the storm, and the fire, but the impulse to get up and do something nags at her. She can't think of anything useful to do. She walks over to the fireplace mantel and picks up the wedding picture of Jimmy and her. Mr. and Mrs. James Ellis. Fourteen years ago. Her hair was longer and blonder then. And her skin was flawless. No pores, no spots, no wrinkles. She touches her thirty-eight-year-old cheek and sighs. Jimmy looks gorgeous. He still does, mostly.
She studies his smile in the photo. He has a slight overbite, and his eyeteeth jut forward a touch. When she met him, she thought his imperfect teeth added to his charm, lending just e