When I picked up Keeping Lucy, I was intrigued by the story. It’s a work of fiction, but like many conceived books, was inspired by true life events. I knew that often times in the past, developmentally delayed or handicapped children were placed in state-run homes because it was deemed that it would be too much of a hardship for families to raise these kids.
What I didn’t realize is that these state-run homes were so despicably run. I understand that hospitals and nursing homes are not always state-of-the-art. But many of the children at the real-life Willowbrook Institution on Staten Island were not just neglected, but actively abused. Even injected with hepatitis for research purposes.
And this is all in the past, right? So long ago? Willowbrook was shut down in 1987. Let that sink in! On to the book.
From the Publisher:
From the author of Rust & Stardust comes this heartbreaking story, inspired by true events, of how far one mother must go to protect her daughter.
Dover, Massachusetts, 1969. Ginny Richardson’s heart was torn open when her baby girl, Lucy, born with Down Syndrome, was taken from her. Under pressure from his powerful family, her husband, Ab, sent Lucy away to Willowridge, a special school for the “feeble-minded.” Ab tried to convince Ginny it was for the best. That they should grieve for their daughter as though she were dead. That they should try to move on.
But two years later, when Ginny’s best friend, Marsha, shows her a series of articles exposing Willowridge as a hell-on-earth–its squalid hallways filled with neglected children–she knows she can’t leave her daughter there. With Ginny’s six-year-old son in tow, Ginny and Marsha drive to the school to see Lucy for themselves. What they find sets their course on a heart-racing journey across state lines—turning Ginny into a fugitive.
For the first time, Ginny must test her own strength and face the world head-on as she fights Ab and his domineering father for the right to keep Lucy. Racing from Massachusetts to the beaches of Atlantic City, through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to a roadside mermaid show in Florida, Keeping Lucy is a searing portrait of just how far a mother’s love can take her.
I could not put this one down. The story was engrossing. Although when I started reading it, I more envisioned a 1950’s or early 1960’s world where fathers lord their opinions over their families, forcing children into careers they don’t love and into making horrible decisions–like institutionalizing a gorgeous little baby just because she was born with an extra chromosome.
Then I realized as I was reading the book that it took place in the late 60’s, early 70’s which makes the events so much more horrifying. Although I suppose that is when children began to fight back en masse against their parent’s ideals and wives began to question their husband’s authority and craved independence.
Ginny is a somewhat forward thinking woman–partially due to the fact that she was raised by a single mom, finds herself living a life she didn’t sign up for. Her husband, who had respected her dreams when they were dating had given in to his own father’s dreams for him and they were living the pampered lives of city folk instead of living in the country or in a commune like Ginny had imagined.
So when her daughter is swept away, sent to a home by her father-in-law just because she was born with a disability, Ginny is unable to fight the decision, though she mourns it everyday. It makes me so mad that Ginny’s husband, Ab, is unable to stand up to his dad. But I suppose people get comfortable and even if they don’t love their lives, they fear the unknown.
I would recommend this to fans of Lisa Genova and anyone who can appreciate a good based-on-a-true story read. Special thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for an e-galley in exchange for my honest review.
This one is out August 6, 2019. Pre-order your copy: