From the author of Rust & Stardust comes this heartbreaking story, inspired by true events, of how far one mother must go to protect her daughter.
Dover, Massachusetts, 1969. Ginny Richardson’s heart was torn open when her baby girl, Lucy, born with Down Syndrome, was taken from her. Under pressure from his powerful family, her husband, Ab, sent Lucy away to Willowridge, a special school for the “feeble-minded.” Ab tried to convince Ginny it was for the best. That they should grieve for their daughter as though she were dead. That they should try to move on.
But two years later, when Ginny’s best friend, Marsha, shows her a series of articles exposing Willowridge as a hell-on-earth–its squalid hallways filled with neglected children–she knows she can’t leave her daughter there. With Ginny’s six-year-old son in tow, Ginny and Marsha drive to the school to see Lucy for themselves. What they find sets their course on a heart-racing journey across state lines—turning Ginny into a fugitive.
For the first time, Ginny must test her own strength and face the world head-on as she fights Ab and his domineering father for the right to keep Lucy. Racing from Massachusetts to the beaches of Atlantic City, through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to a roadside mermaid show in Florida, Keeping Lucy is a searing portrait of just how far a mother’s love can take her.
This is an interesting book and hard to read at times because of the reality of the history involved. Ginny gives birth to her second child, but when Lucy is found to have Down Syndrome, the doctor whisks the baby away. While Ginny is under anesthetic, her husband, father, and doctor place the baby in an institution, telling Ginny it is all for the best.
Two years later, Ginny learns about the deplorable conditions at the institution and ends up stealing her child away and going on a long road trip with her six year old son and her best friend in order to get away from the law and her husband’s family, all of whom will force to to return Lucy.
It is hard in this modern day to see how children with Down Syndrome were treated and how little say Ginny had over her child, or even herself. She submitted to her husband’s will without much protest. However, she does a one eighty when she sees the conditions at the institution two years later, which didn’t feel completely authentic to her character up to that point.
Then there was the long, crazy road trip. It felt strange because there is no way 2 young children would have stayed in the car for days on end that way! However, it did allow for may issues to be brought up, such as women’s choices, friendship, obligations, and social changes that were happening at the time (and are still happening!).
I did like this book — it was interesting and there was lots of research that felt authentic and I wanted to see how it would all end — but I didn’t love it. It is definitely a book, however, that shows us how far we’ve come in many respects, but also how far we still need to go in terms of special needs and women’s rights.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy of this book.