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What Is Visible

by Kimberly Elkins

What Is Visible
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2014, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2015, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster

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Power Reviewer Diane S (06/06/14)

What is visible
Took me a while to read this one, not because I did not like it but because I kept looking things up in Wiki. Most everyone has heard or read about Helen Keller, but I for one had never heard of Laura Bridgman. Her story, on fact, began fifty years before that of Kellers.

She was left blind and mute following an illness when she was two yrs. Old, she was eight when she was sent to The Perkins School under the guidance of Samuel Howe. She is the first to learn English and the first to learn to communicate using finger writing. The author did a fabulous job portraying Laura, her fears and inner turmoil, her confusion over religion, her strength and her naiveté. She was an extraordinary woman, dealing with multiple handicaps.

The character of Samuel was of course as a man of the times. The sun should only involve around him and he did everything he could to keep the woman in his life in line. I did not much like him, though I realize his character was not an uncommon one for this time period.

Samuels wife was Julia Ward Howe, who was a poet and suffragist as well as an abolitionist. She was not allowed to publish under her name
while married to Samuel. He would not allow it but of course she became famous in her own right.

So many people passed through this book, so much history, John Brown, whom Laura thought mad, and the Harpers Ferry disaster. The assassination of Lincoln, The Civil War, The study of phrenology, and the debates about religion.

The afterward explains exactly what was true and what was not. Annie Sullivan actually lived with Laura for several years and graduated from the Perkins school herself.

Wonderful book, clearly stated prose, well rounded characters make this a very informative read. As is stated in the book, without Laura Bridgman there would have been no Helen Keller.
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