Book Review for “Keeping Lucy” by T. Greenwood.
Ginny Richardson had everything that she absolutely never, ever wanted. A big house in the suburbs, lots of money, a high-powered lawyer husband, and none of it was making her happy. What she really wanted was to live in the country, and bring up her children with gardens and nature, maybe even live on a commune. The biggest problem was that her daughter was taken away from her soon after she was born. Her husband reassured her that a baby like Lucy, one with Down Syndrome, needed special care that they couldn’t give her. But when Ginny’s best friend Marsha discovers that the “school” where Lucy was put was featured in a newspaper article that exposed their neglect and abuse of these disabled children, Ginny knows she has to find out for herself.
If someone asked me how to describe this book by comparing it to two other things, I’d probably say it was “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter” meets “Thelma and Louise”. Thankfully, it is far better written and with a much more cohesive story than that novel, but I won’t say how much it differs from that movie, since I’m thinking that might include some spoilers. Mind you, the suspense in this book does compare with that film, although I’d hardly call this a thriller. No, this is solidly literary, women’s fiction with some coming-of-age moments along the way, particularly for Ginny, but also for her husband Ab, if not practically all of the characters here. What this means is that Greenwood’s character development is absolutely top notch in this novel, and we grow to care for each one, even for their faults. Plus, that Ginny has a bit of a weight problem (as I have always had myself) made her even more identifiable for me.
I should point out that there was one thing about this book that really annoyed me. This novel switches between the 60s, and the main action that takes place in 1971. I grew up during this time period, so I can remember lots about what happened back then; the politics, the things we had in our homes, the songs we heard on the radio, and more. Now this might just be me, but my impression was that throughout most of this book, Greenwood seemed to heavily pepper the text with lots of reference to this era that felt overly deliberate. I get that Greenwood wanted to make sure we knew that this wasn’t set at any other time in history, but for me it felt forced and somewhat excessive. Sure, mentioning things like JFK, Vietnam, or the opening of Disney World in Orlando, make sense when it applies to the story. However, throwing in popular brand names, and specifics about the period furniture, or tossing in various newsworthy events that didn’t relate to the story or the characters, just felt like too much. I’m glad Greenwood did such excellent research, and I’m guessing that not everyone will have a problem with this (particularly those younger readers who didn’t live through those times). I’m sure many will feel this set the atmosphere well, but I think lots of it could have been edited out without harming the novel in the least.
That said, this was the only thing that didn’t sit right for me, because everything else was engrossing, to say the very least. Greenwood used the elements of this road trip and combined them with ultimately sympathetic characters and a righteous cause that becomes something gripping from start to finish. To further add to this, Greenwood adds both humor (like one hotel that has beds with “magic fingers” much to the delight of both Lucy and Ginny’s son Peyton, despite everyone’s horror, knowing full well what that was really for) and a well-crafted cast of minor characters that add both mystery and suspense to the scenery along the route. Furthermore, there is even one antagonist that surprises us all in the end. You could almost say that it is a psychological road-trip, filled with self-discovery, and complex, realistic characters, which is an intriguing combination, if you ask me.
Although the above noted niggle prevents me from giving this book a full five stars, I’m thrilled that I discovered Greenwood’s writing through this book. I think that readers who like solid, women’s fiction that is without swaths of romance, set on the cusp of contemporary and historical eras, that includes a quest for justice, will fall in love with this novel. This is why I can warmly recommend this book and give it a very healthy four out of five stars.
St. Martin’s Press will release “Keeping Lucy” by T. Greenwood on August 6, 2019. This book is (will be) available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart (Kobo) US eBooks and audiobooks, the website eBooks.com, iTunes (iBook or audiobook), Wordery or The Book Depository (both with free worldwide delivery), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), or Thriftbooks.com, as well as from an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the publishers for sending me an ARC of this novel via NetGalley.