What is Visible

Kimberly Elkins, Author
Kimberly Elkins. Hachette/Twelve, $25 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4555-2896-7
Reviewed on: 03/10/2014
Release date: 06/03/2014
Compact Disc - 978-1-61969-828-4
Hardcover - 978-1-61969-827-7
Open Ebook - 310 pages - 978-1-4555-2897-4
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-4789-2952-9
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-1-4555-2895-0
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Laura Bridgman lost all her senses but that of touch due to a fever at age two. Though she was an internationally renowned figure in the mid-19th century, Laura has been all but forgotten by history. Fortunately, Elkins revives this historical figure with a wonderfully imaginative and scrupulously researched debut novel. Arriving at the Perkins Institution as a child, Laura learns to read, write, and “speak” through signing via the manual alphabet, with letters tapped out on her hand. Though she receives hundreds of visitors at “Exhibition Days,” Laura has few friends or family members who care about her. She is intensely attached to Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe from the institution, and suffers virtual abandonment when he marries to begin a family of his own. Howe, acting in accordance with the religious and scientific mores of his time, thwarts the dreams and desires of the women around him, including his wife, Julia Ward; Laura’s teacher, Sarah Wight; and Laura herself. But despite the many physiological and social restrictions placed on her, Laura comes across as a willful, mysterious marvel, showing “how little one can possess of what we think it means to be human while still possessing full humanity.” (June)
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