What Is Visible: A Novel

What Is Visible: A Novel

by Kimberly Elkins


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What Is Visible: A Novel by Kimberly Elkins

New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

Bookpage Best Books of 2014

Woman's Day "Most Inspirational Book of 2014"

Women's National Book Association Great Group Reads Pick for 2014

A vividly original literary novel based on the astounding true-life story of Laura Bridgman, the first deaf and blind person who learned language and blazed a trail for Helen Keller.
At age two, Laura Bridgman lost four of her five senses to scarlet fever. At age seven, she was taken to Perkins Institute in Boston to determine if a child so terribly afflicted could be taught. At age twelve, Charles Dickens declared her his prime interest for visiting America. And by age twenty, she was considered the nineteenth century's second most famous woman, having mastered language and charmed the world with her brilliance. Not since The Diving Bell and the Butterfly has a book proven so profoundly moving in illuminating the challenges of living in a completely unique inner world.

With Laura-by turns mischievous, temperamental, and witty-as the book's primary narrator, the fascinating kaleidoscope of characters includes the founder of Perkins Institute, Samuel Gridley Howe, with whom she was in love; his wife, the glamorous Julia Ward Howe, a renowned writer, abolitionist, and suffragist; Laura's beloved teacher, who married a missionary and died insane from syphilis; an Irish orphan with whom Laura had a tumultuous affair; Annie Sullivan; and even the young Helen Keller.

Deeply enthralling and rich with lyricism, WHAT IS VISIBLE chronicles the breathtaking experiment that Laura Bridgman embodied and its links to the great social, philosophical, theological, and educational changes rocking Victorian America. Given Laura's worldwide fame in the nineteenth century, it is astonishing that she has been virtually erased from history. WHAT IS VISIBLE will set the record straight.

*Includes Reading Group Guide*

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781455528967
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 06/03/2014
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 9.10(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Kimberly Elkins was a finalist for the National Magazine Award and has published fiction and nonfiction in the Atlantic, Best New American Voices, Iowa Review, Chicago Tribune, Glamour, and Village Voice, among others. WHAT IS VISIBLE is her first novel.

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What Is Visible: A Novel 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
BookloverCL More than 1 year ago
This is one of the most profoundly gorgeous books I have read all year. It tells the story of Laura Bridgman, who had lost most of her senses by the time she was five, and grew up to be one of the most famous women in America. About fame, love, and living as fully as possible under incredible obstacles, the novel is gorgeously written and unsettling in the best of all ways. Elkins is a master. I
Humbee More than 1 year ago
When I decided to preview this novel on Netgalley with a "taste" of the book, I never thought I would be caught up, leading me to purchase it just so I could finish the story This is a fascinating account of Laura Bridgman, the very first known woman who was both deaf and blind, and who learned to communicate. It is a book I imagine will mesmerize everyone. I was held rapt, absolutely. While "What Is Visible" is a historical novel, Kimberly Elkins writes with such grace and delicacy that it flies off the pages as a real account. Absorbing and disturbing at times, it's a book I couldn't put down and raced through the night hoping to finish. It took me longer than I had eyes to keep open! Each of the characters she describes are vivid in their every day lives in her novel. I was completely engaged with Laura and the Doctor. We are drawn in likes voyeurs able to see what a magnificent and complicated person Laura was, and how she loved the Doctor who sculpted her life. I think the underlying study of what her inner life might have been like was most compelling. This is a novel with teeth, but also with a strong heart at the center. Laura seems to reach for us from its pages and she touches us! I can't say enough about the genius of Ms Elkins's writing. The novel is beautifully crafted. The characters engender caring and tender feelings. The story is moving. You can tell her heart is in this book. This is a must read.
goodwordgirl More than 1 year ago
I fell in love with this book; I fell in love with Laura Bridgman. You'd think that a character who was deaf/blind/mute wouldn't be very interesting, but she's brilliant, funny and stubbornly her own person against all odds. The writing itself is absolutely gorgeous, and I also wouldn't have expected this book to have such elements as romance, bisexuality, affairs, etc., but it's all based on tons of research and history, and covers over 50 years. I also learned a lot of Civil War and Victorian-era history. Bottom line: How could this American icon, once considered the 19th century's 2nd most famous woman, have been forgotten, and now we only remember Helen Keller, who was actually called "the second Laura Bridgman"? The novel examines the why and how of that fact dealing with ideas about female beauty, religion, politics, etc. Besides Laura, there's Julia Ward Howe, who I eventually also came to care about, and her husband, the head of Perkins Institute, who's everything you could love and hate in a man, and even Annie Sullivan and the young Helen Keller. Unputdownable!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was such a well written and interesting story that I ordered some more for gifts for Christmas
SMHarris More than 1 year ago
In WHAT IS VISIBLE, we meet Laura Bridgman, whose sense of touch was the only one of her senses to survive after a bout with scarlet fever when she was a child. Preceding Helen Keller by 51 years, Laura was a famous resident of Perkin’s School for the Blind and Deaf/Blind in Massachusetts and was frequently written about and visited to showcase her education that she learned via finger spelling. While the story is historical fiction, the novel showcases the real life people and historical events of the time. It’s an educational and entertaining read…