Friday, 22 July 2016

Love Anthony by Lisa Genova

Olivia Donatelli's dream of a 'normal' life was shattered when her son, Anthony, was diagnosed with autism at age three. He didn't speak, hated to be touched, almost never made eye contact. Then, just as Olivia was learning that happiness and autism could coexist after all, Anthony was gone.

Now she's alone on Nantucket, desperate to find meaning in her son's short life, when a chance encounter with another woman, Beth, brings Anthony alive again in a most unexpected way. Together, two unforgettable women discover the small but exuberant voice that leads them both to answers they need.

As with the other books I've read by Lisa Genova, the plot of the book is well explained within the blurb, but yet it only touches upon the surface level of what is to unfold.

We come in to both Olivia and Beth's lives at crucial, even life changing, periods of time, and as a reader we watch them fall apart and over time gather themselves back together once more. 

Olivia is a mother who has recently lost her son, and in turn her marriage, now trying to find her feet in the world once more. Taking herself away to Nantucket during the winter time, she is really trying to isolate herself, escape from the realities of life off the island.

Nantucket resident, Beth, is shocked to discover her husband has been unfaithful, and with the guidance of her girlfriends and her own heart she has some tough decisions to make regarding her future and that of her family.

Other than living on the same island, Beth and Olivia's lives are seemingly unconnected, but the way in which these two women entwine is cleverly done, and the inclusion of young Anthony even more so.

Naturally, the two characters with the most development in this book are Beth and Olivia, as well as Anthony to a degree. I feel like both Beth and Olivia had enough background and build up to them in order for me, as a reader, to connect with them. They both feature in the book at defining moments in life, but yet we still see beyond these times and get to know them for them.

Living on an island that loses a good portion of its population once summer ends, Beth and Olivia encounter a lot of the same faces and same people. One set of people that feature quite a bit in Love Anthony is Beth's group of girlfriends; I love that she had this support network in her time of need, but I do wish I saw a little more personality from them as opposed to being told what their individual personalities are.

I've been a fan of Lisa Genova's work since picking up her very first book, Still Alice, and three novels in I'm still thoroughly enjoying her writing.

Lisa Genova's touch is evident in the richness of detail: I found myself enveloped in Nantucket's dreary winter, as I was there when it came to life come the summer season; I was invited into cosy homes and apart of friendships; I felt the passion in Beth's writing and the despair of Olivia in her dark times... The author's writing really draws you into the story; you aren't just reading words on paper. 

Whilst talking about the writing of Love Anthony, I did just want to touch upon the ways in which books and storytelling were weaved in to the novel. As a reader and book lover myself, I liked that a book club had a prominent part in the story, and that Olivia worked as a book editor, and how storytelling brought both female lead characters together. The inclusion of Anthony's story within the narrative was the highlight of this book for me.

The way in which the author dealt with the topic of autism felt sensitive and yet authentic too.

Still Alice holds the number one space as my favourite Lisa Genova book, but Love Anthony is up there in second.



  1. I agree with all you have said. Lisa Genova is an amazing writer, I have now read them all. I finished O'brians last week but still haven't written a review. It will be a 3 star, my least favourite so far but I have to put it into words. Still Alice will always have a special place in my heart, an all time favourite, top 3 books of my lifetime I would say.

    1. I agree. Inside the O'Briens was my least favorite as well. Too formulaic.

    2. Ah, that's a shame Inside the O'Briens didn't meet up to her past novels - I look forward to when you share your review on that title. I do actually have it sitting on my unread shelf currently. Still Alice had a really big impact on me also, and would say an all time favourite read too.

      After reading your review of Brother by Ania Ahlborn a couple of weeks back, I recently picked it up from the library and devoured it in less than two days! Wow - what a read! I really enjoyed it, although I don't know if 'enjoy' is quite the right word. I'll be sharing my thoughts some time this week hopefully. I'm glad I read your review of it because it had been on my wishlist for a while but you gave me that push to seek the title out.

  2. I really liked this one too - my second favorite of her books as well. Still Alice will always be number 1, but this book was really good. I stayed up way too late reading it several months back. I loved the characters and the emotions.

    1. Ah, so we have somewhat similar thoughts regarding Lisa Genova's work. I saw in the comment above that you mentioned you wasn't as keen on Inside the O'Briens... I have that one sitting on my unread shelf currently and so it'll be interesting to see what I end up thinking of that.

      Yes - the characters and the emotions were two elements I greatly enjoyed in Love Anthony!


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