I putting on my teacher hat for a moment because there is no way that I am going to be able to separate this book and being a special education teacher. It is just NOT POSSIBLE. All of my reactions to it came from that intense inner teacher voice.
This is a book that asks hard questions. It points out some hard truths. It acknowledges that being disabled makes you more vulnerable. Your choices are limited. The world seems to see you as prey. Trust can be dangerous. All these things are true. It also shows that needing help does not negate independence, personhood, or bravery.
Biddy and Quincy are incredible complex and real characters. Their pain is so real and their vulnerability so apparent to us as readers that this is not a comfortable book to read. It makes you examine the people around you that you have been trained not to look to closely at. There are some terrible things that happen in this book. And what makes them even more terrible is how commonplace they can be.
One aspect of the book that I found particularly poignant was the examination of intentions. There are characters with the best of intentions in this book who still manage to be incredible condescending and controlling. I liked that both Biddy and Quincy are shown as competent helpers. Miss Elizabeth needs them as much as they need her and one another.
I have seen a couple of reviews where the character of Miss Elizabeth is supposed to be a savior character. I really didn’t see her at all that way. I think that at first she thinks that she is doing them a favor but learns through the events of the book that kindness without respect isn’t kindness but manipulation.
There were some things that I wasn’t very fond of. I didn’t really enjoy the accents in the book. I know that it was supposed to be audio journals but it kind of bugged me. But I am not from the south so that accent would always be jarring to me. I also thought that the two characters’ voices were not as distinct as they could have been. If I was reading quickly and didn’t look at the chapter heading to see who was narrating sometimes I got confused for half a page or so. Relatively minor quibble.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t moments of lightness and humor. The ultimate message of this book to me was the idea of finding your voice, your place in the world, and the people that you make into family. This book has reenergized me as teacher and reminded me that the most powerful thing that I can help my students develop is the ability to advocate for themselves.