My Review: 5 of 5 stars
In one of the Goodreads groups I’m in, Wild Things: YA Grown-Up, we do a bookmark swap with other members (Round 5 is currently taking suggestions!). For the 3rd round, we each chose three favorite books for the bookmark maker to choose from. The person that was chosen as my recipient, Kellee, chose “The Giver” by Lois Lowry, “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, and “Hurt Go Happy” by Ginny Rorby. I’d read the other two books, and as much as I love them both, decided against using them as they are both so popular and well-known. “Hurt Go Happy” on the other hand, I’d never even heard of, and the premise interested me, so I decided to use it, sight-unseen. I read a preview chapter on B&N.com and when that was AMAZING, I ordered a copy.
Thirteen year old Joey is almost completely deaf and struggles to read lips in a world of hearing people because her mother refuses to allow her to learn sign language. Her mother is full of excuses, everything from “It’ll make you lazy so that you won’t be able to read lips to understand people who can’t sign,” to “It’ll show everyone that you’re disabled and they’ll pity you.” So, needless to say, Joey is isolated and largely ignored by people who aren’t able to communicate with her, until she meets Charlie, an elderly man who lives nearby and his chimpanzee, Sukari. This chance meeting changes all of their lives.
All I can say is “Wow”. If you know me at all, you know that I love a gut-wrenching story, one that breaks your heart and hollows you out. This book did all that and more. This book made me something of an emotional train-wreck. I feel like I need a thesaurus to even correctly assign my emotional states. I couldn’t breathe through the last half of this book, and I could barely even see. I can’t remember ever having cried so much during a book as I did with this one, but I didn’t feel manipulated or that Ginny Rorby was playing with my emotions. Rather I felt that she took this story, and all that it represents, incredibly seriously and portrayed it as honestly as possible. The fact that it crushed my soul is inevitable, because both subjects in the book are ones that nudge my overactive empathy gland into the mass-production red-zone. I’m an animal lover, and protector of small and defenseless things of all kinds, and so the events that occurred in this book were painful. I’m not deaf, but in her love for Sukari, I identified with Joey to the point where what happened to her felt like it was happening to me. And it felt incredibly real.
Whew. OK. Picking this back up later. I wrote all of that on June 24th, but I couldn’t stop being a weeping mess, so I set it aside. I couldn’t post it until Kellee’d received her bookmark anyway, which was definitely a good thing because it gave me a chance to put a little distance between this story and my heart, even though all I wanted was to rush in to talk to her about it, because it had affected me so strongly.
I don’t want to talk about the story itself in this review, although I will say that it is one that made me both proud and ashamed of being human. Proud because we have the capacity for learning and growth and empathy and understanding one another, but ashamed because we don’t use it, and worse, we exploit anything and anyone to reach an end. And regardless of how supposedly noble that end is, exploitation to reach that end is wrong. Horribly. I want everyone to read this book. It’s incredibly important. I know that many of you will read this review and say to yourselves, “Why on earth would I want to read that? She said it CRUSHED HER SOUL! O_O” but sometimes we need to have our souls crushed so that we can rebuild them better and containing more caring, compassion, and understanding than they had before.
That’s all I’m saying. Read this book.
And, if you're curious - here is the bookmark that I made based on the book. This is a scanned image.
PS. Sukari is a chimp, and the image on my bookmark is of a monkey. They are not interchangeable, but I couldn't find a chimp that did not look angry or dressed up or something that didn't represent the book - so I made a compromise as I wanted to represent Sukari as being happy.