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Literature / Love Anthony

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Love Anthony is a 2012 novel by Lisa Genova. The book is set in Nantucket and follows two women recently separated from their husbands: Beth Ellis, the mother of three daughters, who kicked her husband out after she found out he was having an affair, and Olivia Donatelli, who is living in her family's rarely-used vacation home while she mourns the death of her eight-year-old autistic son Anthony.

Love Anthony contains examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Past: The book takes place throughout 2010 and early 2011.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Beth's husband Jimmy stops shaving whenever he's going through a hard time, like after Beth kicks him out.
  • Commonality Connection: Beth used to think she and Jimmy were soul mates because they had so much in common. They were both the only children of single parents, and they both had a fierce determination to do something they loved for a living.
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: Averted. After Anthony's fatal seizure, Olivia attempts CPR, and then two paramedics take over. Olivia is shocked by how much force they're using, thinking they'll hurt him, but in any event the CPR fails and he dies.
  • Eyes Always Averted: Anthony doesn't like eyes because they can look different even in the same situation. Olivia once waited hours for him to glance at the camera so she could take a picture.
  • Fluffy Cloud Heaven: This is Beth's idea of heaven, as she's vaguely Christian but was never actively religious. After her mother died, she wished she had something more solid to believe in, as it's hard for her to picture her mother sitting on a cloud, surrounded by naked winged babies.
  • Hates Being Touched: Anthony hated being grabbed because he could only pay attention to one sense or mental activity at once, and being touched jerked his mind away from whatever he was trying to do.
  • Parental Fashion Veto: Beth's thirteen-year-old daughter Sophie tries to wear makeup to the family photo session, but Beth wipes it off before they leave the house.
  • Posthumous Character: The book opens about a year after Anthony's death.
  • Potty Failure: In one of her old journal entries, Olivia describes trying to go to CVS because she just got her period and only has two tampons left, but Anthony starts screaming because they usually go right home after going to the playground. She has to tell her husband David to buy them for her, and by the time he gets home, she's run out of tampons and bled through her makeshift toilet paper pad. It's implied that she had a similar accident in eighth grade, this one in front of the popular girls.
  • Sensory Overload: At a wedding, Olivia and Beth both notice an unfamiliar autistic boy rocking back and forth with his hands over his ears before he takes off and runs to the nearby beach.
  • Serial Spouse: Beth's friend Georgia has been divorced four times. After each divorce, she puts a Post-it note on the refrigerator that says "DO NOT GET MARRIED EVER AGAIN." But as a wedding coordinator she's constantly surrounded by beautiful weddings, so she can't help but believe in fairy-tale romance.
  • Soul-Crushing Desk Job: After Jimmy graduated from college, he spent a year working a desk job at a small software company. He hated being trapped indoors and found the work soulless, and he admired his lobsterman father, so he moved to Nantucket and became a scalloper.
  • Symbolically Broken Object: Beth removes every framed photograph that includes Jimmy and rips them to tiny shreds.
  • Themed Party: Anthony had Barney & Friends-themed birthday parties, with a Barney-shaped cake, year after year, long after the other kids had all outgrown the show. Later, Beth's book club throws a party based on the book she writes about Anthony, with French toast sticks and a white pebble on each napkin.
  • Tragic Keepsake: On Olivia's coffee table is a bowl of white pebbles, which Anthony used to line up in rows all over the house.
  • Why Couldn't You Be Different?: For years, Olivia and David hated Anthony's autism. They spent their life savings and refinanced the house pursuing various quack treatments. Then, just as Olivia was starting to realize that Anthony was happy and she and David could be too, Anthony died.