T. Greenwood’s story about a 1970s mother who discovers the worst about a place meant to protect and care for her youngest child is a beautiful story of love and determination. Moreover, Ms. Greenwood’s writing is so delicate and musical that I didn’t want the story to end, no matter how badly I wanted to find out what happens to little Lucy and her beleaguered mother. Mostly, I could not stop thinking about whether anything is different in 2019 now that we are more aware of neglectful institutions for the disabled, now that we know more about what it takes to raise a child with a disability, and now that there are significant changes to labor and delivery as well as post-partum care. I fear that not much is different forty years later.
Ms. Greenwood takes such care with her historical details that the story is a delight to read as it provides the opportunity to marvel that any of us born in the 1970s survived our childhood. As Ginny makes her way south, there are no seatbelts and no car seats. Everyone smokes like a chimney wherever they want, including in the car with the kids. Ginny signs her daughter out of the institution using nothing more than a letter as a form of identification. Cash rules the day, but when Ginny does use her credit card, she can do so without showing any identification to verify her signature. It’s insane, and yet, you can’t get upset or question her parenting or the historical details because they did happen. It was simply how things were done back then, for right or wrong.
One other historical element upon which Ms. Greenwood spends a lot of time is Ginny’s marriage and her standing in that marriage. Especially as the story rushes to its close, Ginny reflects on her unhappiness and her feelings of suffocation and regret. She recognizes the lack of equality in her marriage, one where she does all the cooking and cleaning while her beloved husband sits and reads the newspaper after dinner. She marvels at the family dynamics of those she meets along her journey, how loving and fair they seem, how thoughtful everyone is when it comes to taking care of one another. Here too is another area which makes me fear we have not come as far as we think we have when it comes to the wives in marriages. Just the other day, I read an article that talked about men, women, and free time. Every day you see a self-help headline about trying to get your husband to help around the house. This is not to mention the silence of those wives and mothers who feel just as trapped and stifled as Ginny did as they put their lives on hold to raise children. Keeping Lucy might occur more than forty years in the past, but she raises awareness of the same gender inequality that continues to exist in relationships.
In spite of everything Ginny feels and experiences, you cannot help finishing Keeping Lucy without a note of hope. Hell, if we can survive the complete lack of automobile safety in the seventies, there is hope for all of us! All kidding aside, Ms. Greenwood provides hope that even one person can make a difference. Her story is a gentle reminder that love can win out over greed and apathy and that no one has the right to make any decisions affecting your life except you. Hers is not a flashy story, and there is not a lot that happens among its pages. However, it is a peaceful story that helps you find the good in this seemingly hellish world in which we now find ourselves. Keeping Lucy is food for the soul at a time when we so desperately need it.