A spellbinding novel about a troubled young girl and a family in crisis, and a gripping, astonishing portrait of recovery and self-determination.
When December opens, eleven year old Isabelle hasnt spoken a word in nearly a year. Four psychiatrists have abandoned her, declaring her silence to be impenetrable. Her parents are at once mystified and terrified by their daughters withdrawal, and by their own gradually loosening hold on the world as theyve always known it. Isabelles private school, which has until now taken the extraordinary step of allowing her to complete her assignments from home, is on the verge of expelling her, forcing her parents to confront the possibility that what once seemed a quirk of adolescence, a phase, is perhaps a lifelong transformation, a swift and total retreat from which their daughter may never emerge. December paints an unforgettable picture of a family reckoning with a bewildering crisis, and of a critical month in the life of a bright, fascinating girl, locked into an isolation of her own making and from which only she can decide to break free.
Compulsively readable and deeply affecting, December is a work of marvelous originality and emotional power from a prodigiously gifted young writer.
Winthrop's prose is bright and piercing at points, dull and mundane at others. Her descriptions are precise and methodical, but the specific details become burdensome at times. The shining light, and the reason the pages continue to turn, is Isabelle. Winthrop handles her expertly, and she should have been given more space. A version of this novel in first person narration from Isabelle's point of view would have been intensely revelatory.
Ultimately, however, December offers a keen and real glimpse into the troubled heart of a young girl, and Winthrop provides a unique view into the challenging transition from childhood to adulthood. (Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).
A surfeit of elitist sensitivity undermines the novel's genuine intelligence and sensory delights.
Winthrop is a master of observation, and her ability to crystallize themes in particular vignettes...brings this affecting family drama vividly to life
This story of a family in crisis builds in emotion until a spellbinding climax brings things to a realistic and satisfying close.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Joyce Worth reading I read the book excerpt on BrookBrowse and when I went to my local library, there it was on the new books rack. I was excited to be the first to check it out of the library. I pretty much read this straight through. The story told through the... Read More
Isabelle is not diagnosed in the book, but were she to be, she would probably be
diagnosed with Selective Mutism, a childhood anxiety disorder. Some
therapists might even diagnose her with Traumatic Mutism because of the
immediate onset and her total silence. Most children with SM are not completely
silent all the time. They are silent as a result of deep anxiety, but will talk
normally when they are in 'safe' environments. Isabelle would be a rare case
because she is completely silent for nine months.
Children with SM often have "severely inhibited temperaments" and are more prone
to anxiety. When we become stressed, the amygdala (the brain's "emergency
manager") responds to the potential crisis by overriding thought and instigating a reaction intended to protect the body. In children with SM, that
reaction is silence. Fearful situations can be birthday parties, school, family
gatherings, or routine errands. Many children with SM also have Sensory
Integration Dysfunction (SID), which means they have trouble processing
A moving, deeply absorbing story of a family in crisis. What sets it apart from most fiction about difficult subjects such as autism, is the author's ability to write about a sad and frightening situation with a seamless blend of warmth, compassion and humor.
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