Summary and book reviews of Daniel Isn't Talking by Marti Leimbach

Daniel Isn't Talking

By Marti Leimbach

Daniel Isn't Talking
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2006,
    288 pages.
    Paperback: May 2007,
    288 pages.

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Book Summary

Marti Leimbach's first novel, Dying Young, was called "a masterpiece of details that always ring true, with the sad, funny and fascinating unpredictability of real life." With the same talent and perception, Leimbach's new novel takes the reader to London, to the home of the Marshes: Stephen Marsh, a true Brit; Melanie, a transplanted American; and their two children, four-year-old Emily and Daniel, just three. When it is conveyed that Daniel is autistic, the orderly life of the Marsh family is shattered.

Melanie is determined to fight to teach Daniel to speak, play and become as "normal" as possible. Her enchanting disposition has already helped her weather other of life's storms, but Daniel's autism may just push her over the brink, destroying her resolute optimism and bringing her unsteady marriage to an inglorious end. The situation is not helped by Stephen's far-from-supportive parents, who proudly display the family tree with Melanie's name barely penciled in, and who remain disconcertingly attached to Stephen's ex-fiancée, a woman apparently intent on restaking her claim on Stephen.

Melanie does have one strong ally in Andy, a talented and off-the-wall play therapist who specializes in teaching autistic children. Andy proves that Daniel is far more capable than anyone imagined, and Melanie finds herself drawn to him even as she staggers toward resolving her marriage.

Daniel Isn't Talking is a moving, deeply absorbing story of a family in crisis. What sets it apart from most fiction about difficult subjects is the author's ability to write about a sad and frightening situation with a seamless blend of warmth, compassion and humor.

One

My husband saw me at a party and decided he wanted to marry me. That is what he says. I was doing an impression of myself on the back of a motorcycle with my university sweetheart, a young man who loved T. S. Eliot and Harley-Davidsons, and who told me to hang on to him as we swept down Storrow Drive in Boston, the winter wind cutting through our clothes like glass. If I allow myself, I can still remember exactly the warm smell of his leather jacket, how I clung to him, and how in my fear and discomfort I cursed all the way to the ballet.

We sat on the plush red seat cushions and kissed before Baryshnikov came on stage, the whole of his powerful frame a knot of kinetic energy that leapt as though the stage were a springboard. I always insisted on sitting up front so I could appreciate the strength of the dancers, the tautness of their muscles, the sweat on their skin. My lover of ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Daniel Isn't Talking is a novel about a woman who discovers her young son is autistic. It is taken in part from my own life as I went through a similar experience five years ago when my son was diagnosed with autism. About my son: I can tell you I was certain there was something wrong with him for some time before the actual diagnosis. I used to ask the doctors about these obscure symptoms. Why does he walk on his toes, I'd ask. Why does he grind his teeth like that? Why doesn't he sleep at night? Or eat for that matter? I mean, surely he should eat? And why doesn't he talk?

And then one day the answer came and I wished I'd never asked the ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

A well told, strong story - definitely worth a second glance.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (708 words).

Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

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.

Kirkus Reviews

A skillfully crafted and bracingly unsentimental look at one mother's love -sometimes tender, sometimes frantic, always fierce - in the face of adversity.

Library Journal - Debbie Bogenschutz

Leimbach does an excellent job of showing a mother fighting with every ounce of her being for what is right for her children and, ultimately, herself. A most satisfying read, this is recommended for all public libraries.

Author Blurb Anita Shreve, author of The Weight of Water and The Pilot's Wife
I was riveted, engrossed—all those wonderful things one hopes for when opening a book. Marti Leimbach's portrayal of a mother facing unbelievable hardships is very real and gripping.

Author Blurb Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat
A terrific book, informed, passionate and touching. I was thoroughly engrossed until the last page.

Author Blurb Jennifer Egan, author of Look at Me
Any parent will recognize the combustion of love and anxiety that fuels Marti Leimbach's vivid new novel. Daniel Isn't Talking is an affecting study of parental devotion.

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Beyond the Book

About Autism: According to Autism Speaks, it is likely that throughout history people have lived with what are now known as autistic spectrum disorders, but the term was first used around 1911 by Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler.

Autism was first described as a specific condition by Dr Leo Kanner in 1943. The following year, Dr Hans Asperger published his paper on the 'high-functioning' form of autism that bears his name (some believe Einstein and Newton both had Asbergers). During the 1950s and '60s many doctors believed autism was a psychological disturbance caused by poor mothering. This theory was firmly crushed in the 1960s with the evidence that autism was a biological condition.

In 1994, the National ...

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