Review of a Book Club Selection
I avoided being a part of a reading book club until this past year. My wife Joan is member of our condominium book club but because of advanced dementia no longer reads books, but does enjoy the book clubs social activities. As a result I started taking part in the book clubs activities, including reading the books being read and discussed. As expected I found myself reading books I would have otherwise never read. Remember, all of the other book club members are women. On the other hand I found some of these books I would never have normally read, memorable and have profoundly affected my thinking. One such book is Love Anthony.
Love Anthony by Lisa Genova
I am not writing a traditional review of Love Antony where I describe its contents and what is good or bad about the book. I do provide a brief outline of the story but my primary purpose in writing this is to try to explain why the book has had such a profound effect on my thoughts.
The story revolves around Olivia, the mother of an autistic boy and another woman named Beth. Olivia is recovering from the death of her autistic eight year old son who died of a seizure related to his autism. The parenting of an autistic son affected her deeply and destroyed her marriage.
While recovering from the death of her son and the ending of her marriage, she retreats to Nantucket Island. While on Nantucket Island Olivia became acquainted with Beth, a woman going through a life’s crisis after discovering her imperfect husband had been cheating on her over a long period of time. Beth has a writing background and starts writing a novel soon after she and Olivia became acquainted. Olivia previews the manuscript of the novel Beth is writing and finds it is the story of Antony although Beth had not been aware of the existence of Anthony while she wrote the novel. That is the set up for the Love Anthony story.
What I took from the Love Anthony story is the notion that true love, love of a son, love of a husband has to be unconditional. You cannot only love what you like about a child, a mate, a friend. You have to love that person unconditionally to be true love. Olivia realized from reading Beth’s novel about the autistic boy that Beth had never known, but who Olivia did know, that despite the stress, the lack of communication, the frustration, that she had loved Anthony unconditionally. This knowledge brought closure for Olivia and she would be able to move on with her life. At the same time Beth realized from writing the book about the autistic boy that her love for her wayward husband had been conditional. Only by making that love unconditional could she reconcile the marriage.
I have taken a lesson from this book. One cannot only love what one likes about a son, a daughter, a mate or a friend. One must love the child or person unconditionally. Anything less is not true love.