What Is Visible: A Novel

Front Cover
Grand Central Publishing, Jun 3, 2014 - Fiction - 320 pages
24 Reviews
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.

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
16
4 stars
5
3 stars
1
2 stars
2
1 star
0

Review: What Is Visible

User Review  - Sephipiderwitch - Goodreads

All I can say about this book is Wow! Lyrical, haunting and pulls at every emotional string as it runs its course. What is visible is the story of Laura Bridgman. A woman I had never heard of before ... Read full review

Review: What Is Visible

User Review  - Sarah Duggan - Goodreads

This ain't The Miracle Worker, which Elkins makes clear from the opening scene of her heroine meeting and being annoyed by Helen Keller. Well researched and beautifully told, this is the sensual yet ... Read full review

All 2 reviews »

About the author (2014)

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.

Bibliographic information