Lisa Genova is back with her newest novel, love anthony, a story that revolves around the difficulties of love and autism. Now you all know that I love love love Lisa Genova! I loved Still Alice and Left Neglected; the characters were so wonderfully crafted and Alzheimer’s and brain damage become accessible topics. Unfortunately, I’m not as fond of love anthony as I thought I would be. I expected the novel to revolve solely around Anthony, a happy and endearing young boy who happens to have autism. I expected to hear the story from his perspective and to learn about the difficulties of fitting in with other children and being “normal.” This wasn’t the case with love anthony. It’s revealed at the start of the novel that Anthony died when he was eight years old; this put me off from delving quickly into the novel like I usually do. When the title character is dead, I feel like the story will be lacking and this was true for love anthony.
The story focuses on Anthony’s mother, Olivia, and another woman, Beth. Both live in Nantucket, but don’t know each other. Each chapter focuses on either Olivia or Beth. Olivia’s story highlights the struggle she faced raising a child with autism and the struggle she is now facing after divorcing her husband, David. Beth’s story focuses on her separation from her husband, Jimmy, who cheated on her with a coworker. The stories sound completely unrelated, right? That’s exactly how I felt reading the novel. Though eventually the women’s stories do intertwine, I still felt a disconnect from the characters. I felt as though Genova was trying to fit two novels into one and it didn’t work. Had love anthony been only about Olivia and Anthony, I think the novel could have had the potential to be great. I feel the same way about Beth’s story; had it been a separate novel, I feel as though it would have been a better read.
After finishing the last page, I didn’t feel as though I knew Beth or Olivia well enough to understand the choices they made. I also felt like I didn’t learn about autism, how it affects people, how it changes and alters lives, like I did with Alzheimer’s and left neglect in Genova’s previous books.
If you do decide to read love anthony, you’ll see that Genova’s focus is not on the brain, but rather on spirituality, the afterlife, and what people believe happens to our soul once we die. Though I do believe in an afterlife and that our souls live on and that we are able to communicate and be seen by those who are still alive, I felt like Genova went too far with this novel to the point where it became unrealistic and at some points, almost laughable.
If you’re a fan of Genova’s work, I would recommend skipping this one and waiting for her next novel.