Daniel Isn't Talking

by Marti Leimbach | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 9780307275721 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingbooklady331wing of Cape Coral, Florida USA on 7/3/2007
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9 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingbooklady331wing from Cape Coral, Florida USA on Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Pre-numbered label used for registration.

From Publishers Weekly
Leimbach (Dying Young) notes on the back of the galley that she has modeled her title character on her own autistic son; the result is moving, frequently funny and never mawkish. The novel is narrated by Melanie Marsh, an American woman living in England who seems to have it all: Stephen, a rich if somewhat starchy husband; Emily, a vivacious daughter; and an adorable son named Daniel. But after a normal infancy, Daniel is beginning to behave strangely—throwing tantrums, walking on his toes, still seeking his mother's breast and refusing to talk. As Melanie unravels, Stephen remains in denial, until the dreaded diagnosis of autism is delivered. The marriage falls apart, but Melanie does not. She embarks on a frustrating, heroic mission to get the best treatment for her son, eventually entrusting his care to Andy O'Connor, a behaviorist with a dubious reputation. But his unorthodox methods get results, and soon, a bit too predictably, a romance blossoms between Andy and Melanie. While the novel lacks the literary ambition of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Leimbach does succeed in making us care about Daniel and his progress.

From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com
Melanie Marsh is a woman possessed. Jittery, unfocused and perpetually unsettled, she barely eats, hardly sleeps and begs her husband to come home from work at all hours of the day. Utterly devoted to her two young children, she lives with a nagging anxiety so severe that even her psychiatrist is at a loss. "It is as though I've eaten a vat of speed," she says. "My mind races along trailing incoherencies and half-finished thoughts. There's a continual restlessness in all four of my limbs." What could possibly be so wrong?
At the start of Marti Leimbach's Daniel Isn't Talking, it's easy to sympathize with Melanie's husband, Stephen, who is baffled by his wife's agitation. Arriving home one day when his 2-year-old son is in the midst of a tantrum, he embraces Emily, his bubbly 4-year-old, and observes his ragged wife on the floor with Daniel. "Young children cry," he says, in a weary attempt to reassure her. "Isn't that what you always tell me?" Then he turns to the pile of mail and starts opening bills. Melanie, meanwhile, tries to comfort her screaming child, who wrenches from her embrace, refusing her touch. "This is not what kids do," Melanie protests silently. "Daniel is pushing his head against my calf, and now dragging his forehead along the floor."

Stephen wants their lives to be normal. And who can blame him? Who among us is eager to accept that all might not be quite right with the small world we have worked so hard to create? But Melanie knows something is wrong long before Daniel is diagnosed as autistic. She is consumed with helping her child. She makes appointment after appointment with specialists. She reads everything about autism that she can find. Stephen, meanwhile, goes off to work each day, his tie perfectly knotted, his suit wrinkle-free. He spends more time talking on his cell phone than he does with his wife. And the cracks in their marriage, barely visible at first, begin to widen.

Melanie's world is peopled with a hilarious cast of characters: her eccentric and vaguely disapproving British in-laws, who have only penciled her into the family tree; Veena, their brilliant maid, who is obsessive about dust but "terrible at cleaning a house"; Stephen's ex-girlfriend Penelope, an ethnomusicologist who wears "miniskirts and boots up to her thighs . . . sleeps in the nude amid satin sheets, and takes pride in the fact that she can accomplish most sexual acts even underwater." Quirky in some cases to the point of caricature, these characters remind us that autism doesn't exist in a vacuum.

Which is the amazing thing about this book: It manages to be about autism without being just about autism. Instead, it's about tangled relationships, compassionate moments, fear and joy. And along the way, there are moments of grace -- such as the time Daniel throws such a tantrum in the grocery store that shoppers flee from the scene, except for one woman who walks right up to them. Melanie braces for the usual insults about her bad parenting. Instead, the woman smiles kindly. "He's lovely," she says. Melanie can barely comprehend what she's hearing. The woman says he reminds her of her own son when he was small. "There's a beat of silence between us. Her eyes lock with mine. I shake my head back and forth, feeling a pressure in my skull as if a dam is breaking." And suddenly Melanie finds herself weeping in the supermarket, her daughter clinging to her leg, Daniel screaming in the cart, the kind eyes of a stranger gazing at her like a benediction.

The most lovable character in the book is Andy, the therapist, who "looks at Daniel and sees treasure." He makes himself into an airplane and flies Daniel on a little blue chair until he learns to say "mmm" -- and then, finally, "Mama." He teaches Daniel to play with his trains -- and, ultimately, with his sister. Out of the whole endless slew of professionals Melanie marches in to see, Andy is the only one able to help her child, the one who believes in her efforts to save him.

Readers of Daniel Isn't Talking will not journey into the inevitable complexity that envelops the lives of most disabled children who grow into adults. Instead, the author puts us face-to-face with the early stages of coming to grips with raising an autistic child, exposing the inner life of a feisty mother and her frantic rescue attempts. Melanie's breakdown and eventual recovery, powered in part by some important self-discoveries in the book's final pages, give us reason to hope that, in the face of things to come, she and others like her can manage to find their way.

Journal Entry 2 by wingbooklady331wing from Cape Coral, Florida USA on Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Picked it up today at Costco's since it just called to me. I think it might be because I work with disabled teens.

Journal Entry 3 by wingbooklady331wing from Cape Coral, Florida USA on Friday, August 22, 2008
I want a sequel. I loved this book. I felt that I was right there with Daniel. I was routing for him from page one.

1. friend -- [FL] ===done
2. mrsboknows -- (SC)==done
3. snapdragongirl -- (TX)==done

New ray forming

Journal Entry 4 by wingbooklady331wing from Cape Coral, Florida USA on Thursday, September 11, 2008
back from my friend; PMing the next person

Journal Entry 5 by wingbooklady331wing at By Mail, A RABCK -- Controlled Releases on Sunday, September 14, 2008

Released 10 yrs ago (9/14/2008 UTC) at By Mail, A RABCK -- Controlled Releases




Journal Entry 6 by PalmettoBuckeye from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina USA on Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Came in the mail today and is 2nd on the TBR list.

Journal Entry 7 by PalmettoBuckeye from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina USA on Friday, October 03, 2008
I think I am still trying to figure out how I feel about this book. There were moments when I had to remind myself that it isn't a memoir, it is a work of fiction and found myself heavily involved in Melanie's struggles. Then there were moments that I thought I'd give up on the whole thing. Something held me to finishing though and I suppose I am glad I did. I teach students with autism and often wonder about the student's home life. Parts of the story sounded very familiar to me and I found myself giggling at certain situations. This isn't the best book I've read this year but it also isn't the worst.

Am waiting to hear from snapdragongirl so it can continue its journey.

Journal Entry 8 by PalmettoBuckeye at -- By post or by hand --, South Carolina USA on Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Released 10 yrs ago (10/15/2008 UTC) at -- By post or by hand --, South Carolina USA



In the mail to next in line this afternoon. :)

Journal Entry 9 by snapdragongirl from Pasadena, Texas USA on Tuesday, October 21, 2008
I received the book today.

Journal Entry 10 by snapdragongirl from Pasadena, Texas USA on Sunday, October 26, 2008
I've decided to start the bookring over again.

PussInBooks - UK (Europe)
mazzlestar - UK (UK)
OnlyLiana - UK (Int'l)
annalux - UK (Int'l)
bookguide - Netherlands (UK & Europe)- BOOK IS HERE
madnad - Spain (Europe)
Martjxox - Italy (Europe)
Qantaqa - Germany (Int'l)
---back to me

Released 10 yrs ago (11/11/2008 UTC) at -- Controlled Release, -- By post or by hand/ in person -- United Kingdom



I'll be sending this out this book tomorrow to the first person on the list. Enjoy.

Journal Entry 12 by PussInBooks from Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire United Kingdom on Thursday, November 20, 2008
Received today, many thanks!

Journal Entry 13 by PussInBooks from Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire United Kingdom on Monday, November 24, 2008
I enjoyed this and found it really readable, yet there was quite a bit about it that peed me off. For once, Melanie's husband - just couldn't warm to the man at all, thought he was a cold, callous, selfish, slightly sinister a-hole to be quite frank! Didn't understand at all why the protagonist was supposed to care about him, and also found her quite pathetic in her inability to see him for what he was. Andy, the rival love-interest, comes across as a little too perfect by comparison - why she'd have any qualms about leaving Stephen for him does not seem to be something Leimbach gave a lot of thought to.
The autism issue is deftly dealt with, although I fail to believe that every single doctor the protagonist saw was so wilfully unhelpful - found it a bit of a slur on the British health system, to be honest! I agree that it is a little-understood condition and the misconceptions about it that parents of autistic children constantly experience, are realistically yet sensitively presented. However, Daniel's progress does sound a little too swift and easy to be believed. Ultimately this is fiction and the ends are tied up too neatly for me to mistake this for a genuine memoir. A genuine memoir in the same vein which I really enjoyed was George and Sam by Charlotte Moore, a mother to two autistic sons. Still, as other journalers have found, you do want to keep reading to the end because it is a well-written, very readable tome - just not a very realistic one!.

Journal Entry 14 by mazzlestar from Leeds, West Yorkshire United Kingdom on Sunday, November 30, 2008
Received this yesterday, sorry for slightly belated journalling! Will read when I've finished one-and-a-half other rings :)

Released 9 yrs ago (12/29/2008 UTC) at -- Controlled Release, -- By post or by hand/ in person -- United Kingdom



I really enjoyed this book - I thought the characters were well constructed and the story almost as good, althought the ending was a bit lame and kind of unbelievable. Is that just me being a pessimist? Haha.

Posted on to OnlyLiana today.

Thanks for sharing this :)

ETA: Agree on the whole "first husband had no likeability, second guy too perfect" comment by PussInBoots also :)

Journal Entry 16 by OnlyLiana from Sheffield, South Yorkshire United Kingdom on Sunday, January 11, 2009
Sorry for the delay in journalling this. It arrived a few days ago. I'm looking forward to reading this, I have a few rings before this one but i'll try to get round to it asap!!!

Released 9 yrs ago (3/4/2009 UTC) at -- Controlled Release, -- By post or by hand/ in person -- United Kingdom



This was an OK book that I got through pretty quickly, I found the central characters to be quite bland and there was not as much depth to Daniels' autism as I would've liked. I don't feel that I am any more knowledgeable about autism as I was before reading this.

I'm posting this out today to the next participant.......enjoy!!

Journal Entry 18 by annalux from Durham, County Durham United Kingdom on Sunday, March 15, 2009
I've just realised that I forgot to write a journal entry when I received this in the post, sorry! It arrived safely about a week or so ago, thank you OnlyLiana. I've nearly finished, so will write again once I get to the end!

Journal Entry 19 by annalux from Durham, County Durham United Kingdom on Thursday, April 02, 2009
Really didn't like this at all - it seemed to suggest that it is possible to 'fix' children with autism, and I really didn't understand why the main character was so fixated on keeping Daniel out of special school. Her refusal to accept the fact that her son has autism is ridiculous - denying the fact that people with special needs have, well, special needs and require specialised care and support can only have a negative effect on all concerned. Will post it on as soon as I hear from the next person on the list!

Journal Entry 20 by bookguide from Wijchen, Gelderland Netherlands on Monday, April 13, 2009
This book arrived just before the Easter weekend which I spent in England without internet access. I'm afraid I have a rather large number of rings to be read at the moment, so it may take quite some time before I get to it. However, I will do my best to get it read as soon as I can and send it on to its next destination. Thank you Snapdragongirl (one of my favourite flowers!) for making this available as a ring, and thank you Annalux for sending it on to me.

Journal Entry 21 by bookguide from Wijchen, Gelderland Netherlands on Sunday, May 24, 2009
This story rang so true, that I was not at all surprised to find that Marti Leimbach's own son is autistic. As an "autism mum" myself, albeit with a child with a less severe form (PDD-NOS) than Daniel in the book, many of the situations described here are familiar. I've been told by family, other mothers, my husband and health workers that my child's bad or atypical behaviour was due to my bad parenting. I've had to fight (or at least talk fast!) to get my child tested (repeatedly), and to get appropriate help. Although my husband is considerably more supportive than Stephen, a major strain on our relationship has been caused by arguments about our "problem child", and our other children have had to suffer as a result of unusually strict rules necessitated by their brother's disability.

There were moments in this book which made me cry in sympathy with Melanie's struggle, or other people's attitudes to her or her son. Others made me laugh, especially the comments about her uptight in-laws (and her undoubtedly somewhat autistic father-in-law). Having decided to keep our son in mainstream school, I thoroughly applaud Melanie's decision to put so much effort into individual therapy for Daniel, especially at the tender age of three or four: "What is so great about a classroom anyway? It holds no magic. How will it help him, to be with children whose behaviour is abnormal? ... All he will do is imitate children who aren't acting like ordinary children in the first place." As long as special needs schools put autistic children in the same class with ADHD children and others with severe behavioural difficulties, I see too many disadvantages.

I recognise, too, the clutching at straws of the mother desperate to have her son diagnosed and then treated. The constant search for a new diet, a new treatment, a new therapy, the search for more information. I was intrigued to read that spinning without getting dizzy is typical autistic behaviour, as my other two children seem to be able to do this, while my autistic son used to run away screaming from swings. Strange. On the other hand, he does walk on his toes much of the time (a typical autistic behaviour which all our doctors and paediatricians failed to recognise!). All I can say is, thank goodness for the Dutch health system which has paid for most of our son's hundreds of trips to various doctors and specialists, otherwise "autism turns out to be an expensive condition. That is, if you treat it." And the cost is not only monetary.
Incidentally, I have just checked, and as I thought, I have a book by the infamous Bettelheim, "A Good Enough Parent", which I haven't read for a while - maybe I shouldn't!

Journal Entry 22 by bookguide at Book Ring, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases on Friday, June 12, 2009

Released 9 yrs ago (6/12/2009 UTC) at Book Ring, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases



I will post this to Madnad as soon as possible.
This book has been released as part of the following BookCrossing challenges:
- Reduce Mount TBR (To Be Read) - read and release books on the TBR list since before Jan. 2009. My reading goal is 46 books.
- The Ultimate Challenge - read and release books, with extra points for a monthly theme.
- Pages Read Challenge - read a self-set target number of pages in 2009. My goal is 25000. This book: 175pp.

Journal Entry 23 by bookguide from Wijchen, Gelderland Netherlands on Tuesday, July 28, 2009
I apologise for not sending this on sooner. I am about to post it.

Journal Entry 24 by bookguide at By mail, A Bookcrossing member -- Controlled Releases on Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Released 9 yrs ago (7/28/2009 UTC) at By mail, A Bookcrossing member -- Controlled Releases


Envelope + stamps + postbox = I've really posted it this time!

Journal Entry 25 by madnad from Adeje, Santa Cruz de Tenerife Spain on Monday, August 17, 2009
I have just got back from my holidays and this book was waiting for me. Thank you. I'll start it tonight and will pass it on as soon as I'm done.

Journal Entry 26 by madnad from Adeje, Santa Cruz de Tenerife Spain on Sunday, August 23, 2009
I finished the book last night and enjoyed it, even though I had hoped it would put more of a focus on the topic of autism. I don't have any experience with autism but like reading about such topics and therefore enjoyed this novel. I can see how such a diagnosis can put a strain on the parents' relationship but still found Stephen's behaviour unacceptable. Anyway, a good read. Thanks for sharing!

I have PMed Qantaqa twice for her address but have not received a reply so far. Will keep on trying.

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