Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Ginny Moon

by Benjamin Ludwig
Park Row Books
368 pages     Literary

Ginny Moon, a 14-year-old on the autism spectrum, has had a rough life. Her drug-addicted mother, Gloria, lost custody of her when Ginny was nine, and Ginny was placed in several foster homes until she found her "forever" home with a high school counselor and his doctor wife. At each stop, Ginny tried to escape, always wanting to get back to her mother and her "baby doll" Now, however, life is somewhat normal—she likes her family,  her school and her classmates; she plays in the band and on a Special Olympics basketball team. 

The story is told by Ginny, "deep in my brain,"   where she lives most of the time. What we know about autism is that each person afflicted with the disorder manifests it in different ways. Ginny has some obsessive characteristics, such as marking the time for every event in her life, keeping a rigid schedule, and eating exactly nine grapes for breakfast every day. For Ginny, time stopped when she was taken away from her mother and her baby doll.  When her "forever parents" have a new baby and Brian, her "forever father" suffers a heart attack, everything in Ginny's world becomes even less secure, and she does what she needs to do to protect herself; she sets out to find her mother.

The amazing thing about Ginny, as we hear her voice loud and clear, is that she knows what she wants. She mostly understands that her brain is unique, that she views the world differently than others, and that sometimes she sees herself as (-Ginny), a girl with no place in the world. This is the Ginny that the reader hurts for. This is the Ginny that the reader wishes that they could just reach out and hug—she is hurting so badly—except that Ginny doesn't want to be touched. But most importantly, this is the Ginny Moon that is resilient. She can concoct a plan and follow it through. 

One of the crucial people in Ginny's life is Patrice, the psychologist. She has been Ginny's counselor since she was first taken away from her mother, and Patrice understands and loves Ginny. Her compassion is boundless. But even Patrice doesn't understand Ginny's obsession with her baby doll until half way through the book, and this is a pivotal moment in the plot. At that point I couldn't stop reading until the end. One reviewer said that the ending is a bit Disney-esque, but it ended exactly where I was hoping it would end, in a satisfying and loving way.

Ginny Moon is the debut novel of Ben Ludwig, a teacher and adoptive father of an autistic teenager. He said he got much of his inspiration from his own experience but also from the parents he met at Special Olympics games and practices.  I really loved this book because Ludwig has an uncanny way of getting "deep in my brain" with Ginny and helping the reader understand and love her. The Kirkus reviewer says, "By turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, Ginny’s quest for a safe home leads her to discover her own strong voice." 

Benjamin Ludwig website. Click here for an interview with the Original Ginny Moon.

No comments: