Saturday, October 25, 2014

What is Visible

We all know the heroic tale of Helen Keller. As a child I
remember watching the movie multiple times in school. But hardly anyone is familiar with Laura Bridgman, her predecessor who had the strength and determination to conquer her disabilities and set the stage for all of those that followed. In the early 1830's (Helen's story takes place 50 years later) Laura, at two years old, is struck with scarlet fever. It leaves her not only deaf and blind but without her sense of smell and taste as well. Touch is all she has, and intelligence, wit, curiosity and determination beyond comprehension. This is the story of Laura's amazing life. Her struggles, her triumphs, her love and her losses. As young a girl whom most people had given up on, she is taken to the Perkins Institute in Boston which is primarily a school for the blind. Dr. Samuel Howe falls in love with this little girl and begins his mission of miracles by unlocking her mysteries and developing methods of communication. Her love of knowledge has no bounds. Her thoughtful writings and perceptions of religion, politics, and poetry to name a few are astonishing. Laura pushes the people and her capabilities to their very limits. There are those that adore her and she forms lifelong bonds, and those who have neither the patience or understanding for this girl that they simply cannot connect with. Her companion in the last years of her life is Annie, a young orphan kitchen girl, who later becomes the teacher of Helen Keller. This is a remarkable piece of historical fiction that I could not put down. I cannot believe I had never heard of this woman and I cannot believe this is Kimberly Elkins first novel.

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