Touching, humane and compelling, Benjamin Ludwig has created a complex portrait of a young girl who sees the world so very differently from those around her – and, at times, far more painfully clearly. Readers will warm to this atypical heroine, who will break your heart and give you unexpected insights into some of society’s greatest wrongs.
It’s been four years since Ginny, then nine, was taken away from her abusive birth mum, Gloria. But now Ginny has a new ‘forever home’ – somewhere she will always be safe from Gloria’s violence and neglect, and her string of even scarier boyfriends.
But as her new Forever Mum prepares for the birth of a baby sister, Ginny starts to think about the little Baby Doll she left behind. Whatever it takes, even if it means breaking all the rules to get in touch with Gloria, she needs to make sure her little one is safe. But how can she make the well-meaning adults in her life understand the importance of her mission? And how far will she go, what risks will she take, to get that Baby Doll back?
It’s hard not to draw parallels between Benjamin Ludwig’s Ginny and Mark Haddon’s self appointed sleuth Christopher (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time). And not only because both are written from the perspective of a character on the autism spectrum. Ludwig’s use of the unreliable narrator offers searing insights into the way in which those who think and communicate differently are misjudged and maligned – even by those who mean well.
Ginny is the classic outsider. But Ludwig has given us that chance to look at the world through her eyes. Where metaphor is translated into the literal, with sometimes surprisingly apt re-interpretations. And her retelling of often harrowing incidents adds an endearing element of humour to what could easily have become a gut-wrenching tale.
But when the hard-knocks land, they really hit home. There is something chilling in the way Ginny introduces us to Gloria as ‘the second-scariest person I know’, leaving the reader with a sick feeling about what that could mean. And as she contemplates the knocked-over letterbox and tire tracks on her ‘Forever Parents’ front lawn she can’t focus on anything else until she resolves the ‘more pressing’ issue. ‘Someone is angry’, she thinks. And ‘you have to be careful around angry people. They get mad and hit.’
This is a strong debut novel by an already assured author, who – as the adoptive father of a child on the autism spectrum – has a particular insight into the issues he raises. But more than anything, Ginny Moon is a superbly written and achingly humane novel. And Benjamin Ludwig is undeniably a talent to watch.
A life-long teacher of English and writing, Benjamin Ludwig lives in New Hampshire with his family. He holds an MAT in English Education and an MFA in Writing. Shortly after he and his wife married they became foster parents and adopted a teenager with autism. The Original Ginny Moon is his first novel, which was inspired in part by his conversations with other parents at Special Olympics basketball practices.