What Is Visible

A Novel
By Kimberly Elkins (Hardcover Book, 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.
  • Twelve
    • Format: Hardcover Book

    • Price: $25.00 US/$28.00 CAN

    • ISBN-13: 9781455528967

    • On Sale Date: 06/03/2014

    • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

    • Imprint: Twelve

    Formats Available: Hardcover Book, Trade Paperback, Electronic Book, Audiobook

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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.

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.
  • "WHAT IS VISIBLE contemplates the bare requisites of being human, more fundamentally than most meditations on haves and have-nots... A novel's extraordinary power is to allow a reader to take possession of the inner life of another. This one provides entrĂ©e to a nearly unthinkable life, and while no one would want to live there, it's a fascinating place to visit." (Barbara Kingsolver, New York Times Book Review).

  • "Kimberly Elkins gives Bridgman her defiant due in reimagining her fascinating, now-forgotten story... The world Elkins discovers within is anything but muted. In tactile prose, she evokes a soul and a body with hungers (yes, there is sex) that none of Bridgman's guides begins to imagine." (The Atlantic Magazine).

  • "Kimberly Elkins's wonderful novel salvages [Laura Bridgman's] story from the sunken wreckage of history and tells it anew in riveting, poignant detail... "What is Visible" illuminates the historical blindness of men - and women's struggles to be seen and heard. The novel is infused with longing and rich with detail about the social reforms of the Victorian era, the quest for rights and freedom for women and slaves, for the disabled and the poor.... Elkins makes this great American woman visible again, in all her remarkable, fully human complexity." (The Washington Post).

  • "An engrossing and moving read." (Woman's Day (A "Best Book of 2014")).

  • "The best historical fiction offers readers a new look at a well-known subject, or illuminates an episode or individual that has been lost to history. Playwright Kimberly Elkins achieves the latter in What Is Visible, a strikingly original debut novel." (BookPage Fiction Top Pick, June 2014).

  • "WHAT IS VISIBLE is remarkable at many levels.  It is written in an intelligent, intricate style, populated with many true historical figures, and teeming with convincing period details.  Above all, the novel has a unique narrative structure, which illustrates the art of fiction at its best in presenting the interior.  A splendid debut indeed." (Ha Jin, National Book Award Winner for Waiting ).

  • "I know firsthand how brutally difficult it is to write a creatively rich, humanly revealing novel based on real people in a distant time.  Kimberly Elkins does this brilliantly.  WHAT IS VISIBLE is not only a compelling, deeply moving novel, it is a fully realized work of art.  This is an auspicious debut of an important new writer." (Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain).

  • "An astonishing debut that vividly brings to life a forgotten chapter of American history. You'll recognize many of the characters in WHAT IS VISIBLE, but its heroine, Laura Bridgman, is likely someone you've never heard of. After you read it, you'll never forget her. Beautiful, heart-wrenching, and at times quite funny, this book is a marvel." (J. Courtney Sullivan, New York Times bestselling author of Maine and The Engagements).

  • "I found myself slowly mesmerized by WHAT IS VISIBLE, and then increasingly haunted and bound to the story of Laura Bridgman, the second, deeper, darker invisibility of her life so permanently excavated and restored to memory by the talented hand of Kimberly Elkins and her extraordinary powers of imagination. To say that I was profoundly moved by this novel would be an understatement." (Bob Shacochis, author of The Woman Who Lost Her Soul).

  • "A wonderfully imaginative and scrupulously researched debut novel... [The protagonist] comes across as a willful, mysterious marvel, showing 'how little one can posses of what we think it means to be human while still possessing full humanity.'" (Publishers Weekly (STARRED)).

  • "An affecting portrait which finally provides its idiosyncratic heroine with a worthy voice." (Kirkus Reviews).

  • "Told in alternating chapters by Laura, Howe, his poet wife, and Laura's beloved teacher, this is a complex, multilayered portrait of a woman who longed to communicate and to love and be loved. Elkins fully captures her difficult nature and her relentless pursuit of connection." (Booklist).

Formats

Product Details

What Is Visible
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Price: $25.00 US/$28.00 CAN
  • Pages: 320
  • Physical Dimensions: 6" x 9"
  • ISBN-13: 9781455528967
  • On Sale Date: 06/03/2014
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