Lisa Genova has created her own niche in women’s fiction. With a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard University, she is exceptionally qualified to write about the medical, emotional, and interpersonal afflictions of neurological disorders. Genova’s medical expertise, coupled with her incredible ability to create authentic characters with nuanced emotional growth, is why every novel she writes feels so original.
LOVE ANTHONY is the story of two grieving women in Nantucket, Massachusetts, who cross paths throughout the novel in small but significant ways as they heal from the trauma of their lives. Olivia is still coping with the recent death of her autistic son, Anthony, and Beth has just discovered that her husband has been having an affair.
In order to process her problems, Beth decides to write a novel. Olivia is a book editor who put aside her work to heal. In Nantucket, she is just a photographer for tourists. They are fated to meet when Beth hires Olivia to take a family portrait, and the two women begin a friendly, but distant, relationship concerning Beth’s novel. As Olivia hesitantly picks up her editorial craft again, she soon finds herself obsessed with Beth’s book as it has striking similarities to her own life.
Both narratives are beautiful, but the noticeable differences create an engaging conflict. The two women have vastly different problems. Genova, of course, handles their distinct struggles deftly with beautiful writing that made me empathize with both Beth and Olivia.
This empathy is a key to understanding LOVE ANTHONY’s power. Far fewer people have dealt with the loss of an autistic child than have dealt with a broken relationship. It’s easy to be frustrated or confused by Olivia’s struggles because most of us can’t understand them, and I believe that is the heart of this novel. Olivia doesn’t understand how to feel either, and watching her slowly start to accept grief into her life allows us to empathize with her.
Lisa Genova has a knack for writing books that leave readers sobbing from start to finish. LOVE ANTHONY is no exception. She knows she doesn’t have the answer as to why the world has rolled the dice for Olivia and her family like it has, but she does a superb job of exploring how to pick up the pieces. LOVE ANTHONY lets grief take its toll. Sometimes, “okay” is the best you can be.