Saturday, January 26, 2013

Book Review: What Love Sees

I am a fan of Susan Vreeland, but I've mostly stuck to her books about art, such as the Passion of Artemesia and Girl in Hyacinth Blue.  So when Amazon had What Love Sees for sale for $1.99, I picked it up for the plane ride back from New Orleans. 

The book is a true story, but it reads like a novel.  It has a pretty fast pace, and it's really not a "romance", but a genuine kind of love story.  It's a portrait of a young woman whose life is difficult in some ways, yet also extremely privileged.  She becomes blind at the age of 12, in the late 1920s, and this story is fascinating.  Her parents continue to send her to regular school and she lugs around a typewriter to type her exams.  Her parents have the resources to send her to summer camp and finishing school and Europe, and they also have an interesting kind of snobbery, which Jean has to navigate.  Eventually she marries a man, who is also blind, and the two of them live on a ranch and raise four kids. 

Four kids sounds daunting anyway, but Vreeland does a great job of explaining why some things are so difficult for Jean and Forrest.  Things like changing diapers.  Which, having spent time with a screaming, squirmy newborn recently, seems impossible anyway.  But factor in cloth diapers, pins, and not being able to see what you are doing?  That is really a challenge.  Yet the hardest thing for Jean is that she will never ever see her baby's face. 

I loved this book for being a very genuine portrait of a marriage.  The couple tries to deal with each others shortcomings, manages each others tempers, tries to find time to spend with each other while working very hard, and also deals with the frustrations of four children who learn very quickly how to try to manipulate their parents. 

The book is also interesting history.  It starts in the Depression and goes into World War II.  Jean and Forrest cannot serve in the military, but still try to contribute.  It's also a great history of ADA issues and accessibility issues.  Jean has one of the very first seeing eye dogs, and the family also travels by airplane occasionally - to visit her parents, they have to fly cross country, which requires five changes and their six year old son to navigate through the airport. 

So if you are a fan of non-fiction, historical fiction, love stories, or good books, I highly recommend What Love Sees.  Have you read anything good lately?