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Having lost every sense save touch to scarlet fever as a toddler, Laura Bridgman (1829–1889) captivated her contemporaries' imaginations by learning to communicate through finger spelling and writing, inspiring dolls, poetry, and even an essay by Charles Dickens, decades before Helen Keller was born. For all the fervor and news stories Laura generated at the time, though, there is no autobiography to tell us of her inner life, and few remember her story; debut novelist Elkins creates a fictional memoir to remedy those erasures. The audacious liberties Elkins takes—inventing a romance for Laura, taking great pains to highlight the most tragically ironic hypocrisies of her famous caregivers—make the story sometimes feel like a writer's exercise rather than a novel. However, Elkins does inspire the reader to imagine life experienced only through touch, and Laura's powerlessness to make her own decisions feels criminal rather than justifiable, even given her disabilities. VERDICT Fans of Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time will surely enjoy this novel for its peek inside another unconventional mind. Patrons interested in protagonists with disabilities, historical women's fiction, or LGBT romance will appreciate Elkins's original approach to each. [See Prepub Alert, 1/6/14.]—Nicole R. Steeves, Chicago P.L.