Thursday, August 14, 2008

Daniel Isn't Talking

Umm.... so I guess I lied when I said it would take me a while to finish this book. I finished it kind of quick like. Not necessarily because I loved it, more because it was the most depressing story ever and I badly wanted to keep reading it in the hopes that it would get happier. It did. But not much.

This novel by Marti Leimbach is about Melanie Marsh, an American living in London with her British husband and two young kids. Her youngest, Daniel, is 2 years old and not talking and deep down she knows something is wrong. It didn't say on the back of the book, but having some experience with autism, I knew immediately that this would be the "devastating diagnosis" referenced in the jacket description.

The book follows her story of coping with the diagnosis of autism and how it blows apart her marriage. Eventually she sort of puts her life back together and the "devastating" part becomes slightly less devastating, but that is not to say that this book is in any way uplifting. Because for serious. This book is a major downer. Which I suppose should have been a giveaway knowing the subject matter. And that's not even to mention the fact that Marti's other book is called Dying Young. It's possible that I've never heard of a more depressing title for a book.

This book felt so real and sad. The story of their marriage falling apart is almost more sad than the autism. I'm not saying that Melanie deals with the diagnosis well, but her husband Steven? I wanted to reach through the pages of the book and wring his neck. I actually started to hate him. I know this was just a book and not even a true story, but I kept asking myself - why are men so poorly equipped to deal with emotional situations? A generalization and perhaps a stereotype, but one based on some fact I think.

Thankfully, at some point in the book a new character enters the picture - Andy. He helps Melanie cope and teaches Daniel to talk. Andy is the ray of sunshine that brightens this book up a bit. That, and Melanie's weird brother Larry who lives with an older woman named Wanda in a trailer where they have adopted a bunch of special needs parrots. But I digress. The book is well written and an amazing story of a woman's ability to cope, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it unless you're ready for some major angst and heartbreak.

Now I'm off to go watch some Olympics.


Dan said...

If you want to counter this autism downer with a more feel-good autism experience, you should check out a documentary called "Autism: The Musical". We just watched it and were touched by these kids and their parents. And we laughed a lot, too. (No, not *at* them; *with* them.)

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I want to read a downer about autism. I think there can be help out there for people. I don't want to get frustrated.

Rachel said...

Wow- you described this so well, that I'm not sure whether or not I want to read it. As a Mom, it's one of my worst fears. I completely obsessed over my little guy's vaccinations (ended up getting them), read a ton, and still just obsess in general. What a heartbreaking thing, autism.