Reach for the box of Kleenex, Love Anthony is a tear-jerker. The third novel by NY Times best seller, Lisa Genova is as emotional, engaging and poignant as her previous works, Still Alice and Left Neglected. It is ultimately a tale of unconditional love that will force you to ask some big questions about yourself and life. It also means that this would make a good choice of novel for a book club discussion or two.

Genova’s background is in biopsychology and neuroscience. It comes as no surprise that her first two books have tackled areas like Alzheimer’s and brain injury. In Love Anthony she sets the spotlight on the field of autism and just like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, she really manages to get inside the head of the child with the disorder. Anthony is in fact Genova’s strongest character and the most beautiful one offered here.

What Genova does is marry up emotional truths with scenes that are very credible in their encapsulation of benign domesticity. The story follows two distinct paths- that of mother Beth Ellis who is grappling with the demise of her marriage after she discovers her husband Jimmy cheated on her. The reader gets to follow the process of separation and the fall-out of the affair as Ellis tries to reinvent her life.

The second story is about Olivia Donatelli, another woman who recently separated from her husband after her autistic son Anthony passed away from a subdural hematoma or seizure. The lives of the two women intersect and they eventually strike up an unlikely friendship as they both share in their tragedy and grief. The set-up does take time and effort but Genova lays a solid foundation and the reader is rewarded for their patience in navigating their way through the past and present and through journal entries and traditional and imagined book chapters. There is a lot of variety here in writing structure and style.

Some of the most memorable quotes in the book are also the most relatable ones. Consider “She’s at once hopelessly attracted to him and completely pi**ed at him”.

“It is the closest place to nowhere that she can think of. And nowhere is exactly where she wants to be today”. Hands up who hasn’t had moments like this?

Love Anthony is a convergent tale of self-discovery, love and loss. It is a beautifully- written story that has more heart than a Nicholas Sparks novel and at times is more real than an autobiography. Genova uses a deft hand to paint autism with a sensitive brush and ultimately creates something that is full of truth, beauty and a picture of a gorgeous and utterly loveable autistic boy.

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