34 reviews

The Story Of Beautiful Girl
by Rachel Simon

Published: 2012-03-01
Hardcover : 448 pages
87 members reading this now
76 clubs reading this now
42 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 32 of 34 members
A stormy night in small-town America. When Martha, a retired schoolteacher answers the knock on her door and finds a young couple, desperate and soaked to the skin, standing there - her world changes for ever. Lynnie has an intellectual disability, and Homan is deaf. They've escaped together ...
No other editions available.
Add to Club Selections
Add to Possible Club Selections
Add to My Personal Queue
Jump to


A stormy night in small-town America. When Martha, a retired schoolteacher answers the knock on her door and finds a young couple, desperate and soaked to the skin, standing there - her world changes for ever. Lynnie has an intellectual disability, and Homan is deaf. They've escaped together from The School for the Incurable and Feebleminded: a brutal institution where people with disabilities are left to languish, shuttered away from the world. They reveal that Lynnie has a newborn baby. But then the police bang on the door, Homan escapes into the darkness and Lynnie is captured. Before she's returned to The School, bound and tied, she utters to Martha: 'Hide her.' And so begins the unforgettable story of Lynnie, Homan, Martha, and baby Julia.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


No Excerpt Currently Available

Discussion Questions

1. What did you learn that you didn’t already know about the history of people with disabilities and the ways in which they were routinely treated by society? What did you learn about how people with disabilities might live today? Consider the lives of people you know who have a disability. Did the experiences of Lynnie and Homan change or shed light on your understanding of them?

2. Why do you think Martha took on the incredible responsibility of raising another woman’s child instead of contacting proper authorities? What would you have done in her place?

3. The Story of Beautiful Girl is ultimately a story about love—romantic love, familial love, the love between friends. In what ways are the characters of the novel transformed by love, both given and received?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

Note from author Rachel Simon:

Where did I get the idea for THE STORY OF BEAUTIFUL GIRL? I’ll tell you what I know—and I’ll tell you what I can only guess.

A few years ago, I wrote a memoir about my close relationship with my sister, who has a developmental disability. The book, Riding The Bus With My Sister, led to speaking engagements across the country.

On one of those trips, I came across a book that told the true story of a deaf, African American teenager found wandering the streets in Illinois in 1945. No one could identify him because no one understood his sign language. A judge declared him “feebleminded” and sent him to an institution, where he remained until he died fifty years later.

The man they called John Doe Number 24 haunted me for years.

Then one day I sat down, and THE STORY OF BEAUTIFUL GIRL burst out of me like nothing I’ve written before.

In 1968, an elderly widow answers a knock on her farmhouse door. Standing before her are John Doe Number 42 and the love of his life, Beautiful Girl. They have just escaped from an institution—and Beautiful Girl has just borne a baby girl. That same night, the authorities catch up to them. Number 42 escapes into the darkness and Beautiful Girl is caught. But just before she is forced back into the institution, she whispers to the widow: “Hide her.”

And so begins the forty-year epic journey of Beautiful Girl, Number 42, the widow, and the baby—lives divided by seemingly insurmountable obstacles, yet drawn together by a secret pact and extraordinary love.

That’s what I know about where THE STORY OF BEAUTIFUL GIRL came from.

But a psychic friend of mine is sure it came from the real John Doe himself. “He handed it to you so he could live the life he’d been denied.”

I don’t know if she’s right. But I do know my sister has a life of love, hope, and freedom. And if it takes a little writerly mystery to give those same things to my characters as well, then I’m fine with that explanation.

Please come visit me at www.rachelsimon.com , or email me at [email protected]. I'd love to hear from you.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Maria Elaine B. (see profile) 11/25/20

by Roberta G. (see profile) 03/16/16

  "The Story of Beautiful Girl"by Betty Lou N. (see profile) 03/16/16

A well-researched look into the institutionalization of children in the 1960's.

  "Good Read"by amanda m. (see profile) 10/31/15

Our book group read The Story of Beautiful Girl this month and had fun discussing the story. It hit close to home with several members. We always rate the book on a scale of 1-5 and this book rated 3.75.... (read more)

by Kate T. (see profile) 07/28/15

by Karen B. (see profile) 07/20/15

  "The Story of Beautiful Girl"by Cheryl W. (see profile) 08/23/14

I really enjoyed this book. I think each member of my book club could say that they have known someone who was represented by the patients at the school. It was a beautiful story of love, adaptability,... (read more)

by Jeanine C. (see profile) 07/22/14

  "The Story of Beautiful Girl"by Hala J. (see profile) 07/22/14

I enjoyed reading this book very much. Other than being a well-written and insightful novel, it depicts the lives of people with disabilities in a loving, humane and inspirational format.

  "The story of beautiful girl"by Marlo J. (see profile) 10/16/13

Wonderful book

Rate this book
Remember me

Now serving over 80,000 book clubs & ready to welcome yours. Join us and get the Top Book Club Picks of 2022 (so far).


Get free weekly updates on top club picks, book giveaways, author events and more
Please wait...