Keeping LucyKeeping Lucy by T. Greenwood

Published August 6th 2019 by St. Martin’s Press

5 Stars: 

This was such a heartbreaking story. This one has special significance to me as there was a “school” or institution within an hour of my house that I visited when I was in Teacher’s College, 1977. It was such a sad, dismal place. It closed in the 80s. I know it did not have the same issues at the “school” in this book, but to see all those people institutionalized, some that would have been able to function in society with some support, was heartbreaking.

It’s 1969 and Ginny has just given birth to her second child, a baby girl with down syndrome. At birth, the doctor convinced Ginny’s husband Abbott, aka Ab, that it would be best to send her to a “school” that knows how to deal with the medical and other issues that she, Lucy, will have. Before Ginny even knows it, Lucy is gone and she is told that it is best that they not go to see her. Over the next two years, life moves forward, with Ginny taking care of Ab and their son. Ginny does not forget about Lucy, like it seems the rest of the family has. It is 1971 and her best friend, Marsha brings to her attention, an expose about Willowridge that is in the papers. Ginny is upset and want to see Lucy. With Marsha’s help, she gets a pass to take her for a weekend and they head off to Willowridge without telling Ab. What happens next is excruciating for Ginny. The report seems to be true. She can’t return Lucy after her weekend, but what can she do? Can she go up against Abbott senior, who apparently was behind the move to Willowridge and supports the school.

I loved the characters of Ginny and Marsha. They were lifelong friends who supported each other, encourage one another and probably had gotten into trouble together throughout their lives. They were so well developed, they felt like people I knew. Ginny was the one who took the road everyone expected, Marsha was the one who got into trouble. She made mistakes when it came to men, almost like she was afraid to make a commitment to anyone. I loved that she was willing to give up everything for her friend. Even Ginny’s son was real to me. He was six and had been told his sister was with the angels. He had been an only child all his life, so was quite put out when this child came along and took his mother’s attention and affection. To be told she was his sister was not acceptable to him. I loved how he changed that view as the story went forward, not right away, but children tend to be more accepting and forgiving than adults. Ab made me angry. He would not listen to Ginny, he was a daddy’s boy and would not stand up to him. Ginny made the decisions she needed to make without him. I do not want to spoil the story, so will not say much more. I will say that I was very satisfied with how this book ended.

The author had me at the first page and I did not stop until I finished. These schools/institutions were real. Doctors honestly believed they were doing the right thing in many cases. It is unfortunate that children born with Down’s Syndrome were considered to be a blemish on families of a certain standing, but it happened. I read this in one day and definitely recommend it to anyone.

Synopsis: 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.

About the Author: T. Greenwood grew up in rural Vermont. She began writing stories at seven years old and wrote her first “novel” at nine on her dad’s giant blue electric typewriter.

Since then, she has published thirteen novels. She has received grants from the Sherwood Anderson Foundation, the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Maryland State Arts Council. She has won three San Diego Book Awards. Five of her novels have been BookSense76/IndieBound picks. BODIES OF WATER was finalist for a Lambda Foundation award. Her thirteenth novel, KEEPING LUCY, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in August 2019.

She teaches creative writing for San Diego Writer’s Ink and online for The Writer’s Center. She and her husband, Patrick, live in San Diego, CA with their two daughters during the school year and spend their summers at her family’s camp on Newark Pond in Vermont. She is also a photographer.

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