Describes the life and challenges of Laura Bridgman, a deaf and blind woman who learned language 50 years before Helen Keller did and those who helped her including the founder of the Perkins Institute, with whom she was in love, and her beloved teacher. 25,000 first printing. - (Baker & Taylor)
Presents a fictionalized account of the life and challenges of Laura Bridgman, the first deaf and blind woman to learn language, and those who helped her, including the founder of the Perkins Institute, with whom she was in love, and her beloved teacher. - (Baker & Taylor)
In this fictional treatment of the life of Laura Bridgman, the first deaf and blind person to learn language, Elkins aims to show "how little one can possess of what we think it means to be human while still possessing full humanity." After a raging bout of scarlet fever at the age of two, Laura loses her eyes, her hearing, and her ability to taste and smell. Taken from her family home by Dr. Samuel Howe and taught to communicate via hand spelling, Laura soon becomes a celebrated figure attracting hundreds to exhibitions at Howe's Perkins Institution, including Charles Dickens and Dorothea Dix. But Howe has his own agenda, using Laura to push both the causes of phrenology and anti-Calvinism. When Laura embraces the Baptist faith, she loses Howe's favor but never loses her fire. Told in alternating chapters by Laura, Howe, his poet wife, and Laura's beloved teacher, this is a complex, multilayered portrait of a woman who longed to communicate and to love and be loved. Elkins fully captures her difficult nature and her relentless pursuit of connection. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
Library Journal Reviews
Having lost every sense save touch to scarlet fever as a toddler, Laura Bridgman (1829–1889) captivated her contemporaries' imaginations by learning to communicate through finger spelling and writing, inspiring dolls, poetry, and even an essay by Charles Dickens, decades before Helen Keller was born. For all the fervor and news stories Laura generated at the time, though, there is no autobiography to tell us of her inner life, and few remember her story; debut novelist Elkins creates a fictional memoir to remedy those erasures. The audacious liberties Elkins takes—inventing a romance for Laura, taking great pains to highlight the most tragically ironic hypocrisies of her famous caregivers—make the story sometimes feel like a writer's exercise rather than a novel. However, Elkins does inspire the reader to imagine life experienced only through touch, and Laura's powerlessness to make her own decisions feels criminal rather than justifiable, even given her disabilities. VERDICT Fans of Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time will surely enjoy this novel for its peek inside another unconventional mind. Patrons interested in protagonists with disabilities, historical women's fiction, or LGBT romance will appreciate Elkins's original approach to each. [See Prepub Alert, 1/6/14.]—Nicole R. Steeves, Chicago P.L.
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