“In my head I need to say what happens to me right after it happens. I need to say it all back to myself because it helps me understand. That’s why I talk inside my brain. It’s like a diary except I’m not so good at writing. I used to say it all out loud when I was in the apartment but Donald said it drove him bat-shit crazy. Then he said I should keep my mouth closed and not walk around with it open because it makes me look like a cave girl. No one can hear what I say inside my head because that’s where my brain is. It helps me do things when no one is looking. Like when I used to look for mayonnaise and ketchup packets and food in the garbage when Gloria and Donald or one of her other man-friends were upstairs.”
Benjamin Ludwig’s debut, “Ginny Moon” tells the story of Ginny, an autistic teenager who is beyond courageous, profoundly selfless, and deeply misunderstood. Ginny lives with Brian and Maura Moon, the latest in a string of “Forever Parents” – a string that only does further damage to Ginny’s understanding of the meaning of “forever”. Ginny is very literal minded and craves consistency, but the only things in her life with any reliability are that her birth mother Gloria is “unreliable”, that she desperately misses her “Baby Doll”, and that she is almost always underestimated and misunderstood.
Her autism and her horrifying, traumatic childhood have made it extremely difficult for Ginny to connect with people in her life, but they pose no boundaries (and maybe even facilitate) her likability as a protagonist.
“My Forever Dad gives me a squeeze on the shoulder. I don’t recoil because it’s okay for him to do that. Because once he asked me if he could give me a hug and I said no so he asked if a squeeze on the shoulder would be all right and I said yes it would be. My Forever Mom can give me a hug if she asks but my Forever Dad is a man so it has to be a shoulder squeeze.”
Since she was taken from her birth mother at the age of nine, Ginny struggles to stop time. Not just uncomfortable with changes in routine, Ginny doesn’t want herself to change. In fact, many of her compulsions are centered around trying to return to her nine year old self. Her inability to stop or even turn back time nearly destroys a girl whose capacity for introspection and self acceptance are already challenged.
“My Forever Mom’s lip rises. ‘Fine,’ she says. Through her teeth. ‘No one can say I didn’t try. Now let’s go.’
She shoves her hand out. I used to like holding her hand but I don’t take it. Because I’m not who I used to be anymore and I don’t think my Forever Mom likes the person I turned into. I don’t think I like the person I turned into either.”
Throughout the story, all narrated in a diary-like form from Ginny’s thoughts, Ginny struggles with finding her place – in her school, in her new “Forever Family”, in the world.
“I walk down the sidewalk until I come to a corner. I can go across the street or I can take another right. The noise of the cars is loud and the air is cold and my backpack is heavy. I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know where a girl who doesn’t belong anywhere should go.”
Ginny Moon is an irresistibly compelling character – like a puppy learning to walk with only three legs, you are torn between wanting to scoop her up and help her and sitting back in utter awe of what she can do all on her own. Benjamin Ludwig’s writing, through the voice of this profound girl, is captivating and the story insists on finding a place in your heart. This is an absolutely wonderful, though occasionally agonizing, read.