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.
Wilsons got his arm deep in the twisted mess of wires, pipes, and tubing that festers there beneath his trucks dented hood like the intestines of some living thing. He gropes at the undersides of things, trying to find whatever leaking crack it is thats caused him now to fail inspection twice. That and the broken hinge of the drivers seat, which he keeps upright by stacking milk crates behind it.
Damn truck, he mutters. Goddamn. He says it though he loves this truck, he wouldnt ever trade it in. It keeps him busy on the weekends; its a project, a chore.
Today is Wilsons birthday. He looks younger than his forty-two years, and in many ways he feels it. He feels the same as he always has, all his life, same as he did as a kid stalking through the woods with a BB gun or a young man drunk at a keg party, and so sometimes he doesnt recognize the city businessman hes become, with a weekend ...
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).
Full Review (473 words).
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...
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