Title: Love Anthony
Author: Lisa Genova
“And you, Mom. I loved you. You’ve asked if I felt and understood that you loved me. of course I did. And you know this. I loved your love because it kept me safe and happy and wanted, and it existed beyond words and hugs and eyes.”
I love Lisa Genova’s books, so I was excited to read another one when I bought this. As with all her novels, Love Anthony focuses on an illness and the way it shapes and changes people and families, and shows how they cope under the pressure of it. This novel has two protagonists who are connected by one special boy: Anthony. Anthony was severely autistic and as a result struggled to communicate so much that he never even spoke, not even to his mother. Having tragically died when he was eight-years-old, his mother, Olivia, now spends her time contemplating why he was even alive in the first place. Meanwhile, Beth’s marriage is in crisis, and after the infidelity of her husband hurts her, she throws herself back into what she used to enjoy – writing. Having previously enjoyed the book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, she decides to write an autistic protagonist, and as she begins to think of how to write the book, a character appears to her, almost fully-formed: Anthony.
I loved the intertwining plots in this book, and while reading, loved the anticipation of how the two women’s stories were going to connect. Olivia especially was interesting to read about because, as usual, Genova is so honest and raw with her portrayal of the illness, that you can’t help but sympathise with Olivia.
Throughout the book, nothing really happens in terms of plot, it’s more about the characters and their developments and the journey from the start of the novel to end – whatever that might entail. But I loved it for its focus on the two women and how they deal with their individual circumstances.
The thing I didn’t like about this book, which is why I love Genova’s other books, is because it was written in a retrospective way, and the protagonist wasn’t the one with the illness. Sure, Olivia’s story is compelling and you can really feel her frustration at the world, but I think with novels like Inside the O’Briens and Left Neglected, I felt their pain just a little more because they were the ones having to contemplate their every day life with something like Huntington’s Disease or Left Neglect.
I also didn’t like the far-fetched element of this book; normally I love Genova for writing about real illnesses which affect real people, and while autism affects a lot of people, the idea that Anthony could communicate with Beth in her dreams after he was dead, was just a little implausible for my liking.
Love Anthony is a stunning novel which once again shows human resilience in a beautiful and strong way. While I would have preferred if Anthony was the protagonist, he was in a way the narrator, as we read the snippets from Beth’s book. While is wasn’t my favourite of Genova’s, I would still recommend it because she’s just so spectacular at what she does!