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1 Burnside Literature- A to Z

Daniel Isn't Talking


Daniel Isn't Talking Cover



Reading Group Guide

1. There are occasional flashbacks throughout the novel that give a glimpse of what Melanie was like before she had children. How would you describe her character before she became a mother? How has she changed?

2. Melanie and Stephens house empties out of possessions as Melanie sells their things to pay for Daniels various therapies and other needs. What does Melanie mean when she says, “I am in a different market than the rest of the world” [p. 164]?

3. How are the subjects of race and class treated in the novel?

4. Andy says he understands Melanie as an “autism mother.” What is the implication of this term? How might Andys perception of “autism mothers” be different than that of most people Melanie encounters?

5. When Melanie tells Veena about Daniels diagnosis, she makes an outright appeal for Veenas compassion and sympathy. Instead, Veena says, “You are a white woman living in a white paradise. This is not the worst thing that can happen” [p. 59]. What does Veena mean by this? Why would Melanie find these words comforting?

6. How do you describe the connection between Melanie and Veena? How are these apparently very different women similar? What about their circumstances helps them to understand each other? Would they have been friends if Daniel was normal?

7. Early in the novel Melanie thinks she may be “unstable” [p. 13]. Would you agree with that? Following Daniels diagnosis, does she seem more or less “stable” to the world around her? To you as a reader?

8. On the morning of Daniels diagnosis, Melanies immediate reaction is to say, “I feel that a change has taken place. I cannot help feeling as though I started the journey this morning with my beloved little boy and am returning with a slightly alien, uneducable time bomb” [p. 55]. How has Daniels diagnosis temporarily changed his mothers perception of him? What examples can be seen of her resisting this changed perception? How has Stephens view of his son been altered by the diagnosis?

9. How does Daniels diagnosis affect his sister, Emily? In what ways does Melanie try to shield Emily from the full implications of having a brother with autism? In what ways is she successful? In what ways is she not successful?

10. Was Stephens departure useful in helping Daniel? In the long run, was his absence a good thing for Daniel? For Emily? How might things have been different for the children if Stephen had stayed?

11. At the end of the novel, Melanie states that Stephen “has shifted all blame for our marriage onto me. Onto my whims and desires. At the same time he has cleverly cast his bid. He is smart. Maybe that is what I found so attractive about him. I do not find it so attractive now” [p. 274]. How has Stephen made Melanie feel responsible for the failure of their marriage? Do you think she is to blame?

12. Melanie says that Andy “has touched a part of me that was dying and brought it to life once more. This belongs to him” [p. 183]. What does Melanie mean by this statement? What is the unusual nature of Melanie and Andys connection and deepening relationship? What do they know about each others families and backgrounds? Does this matter?

13. In Chapter twenty-three Melanie sees a group of young women at a bus stop. About one of them she says, “I want to tell her that she is a woman of great virtue. A woman of grace. That I admire her. And that I see her differently than perhaps she sees herself. Now that I have truly seen her, now that I have taken notice” [p. 258]. In what sense has Melanie “truly seen” this young woman? What stops her from speaking to the woman?

14. How is the readers experience of the novel affected by the knowledge that Marti Leimbach herself is an “autism mother?”

Product Details

Leimbach, Marti
Anchor Books
Marti Leimbach
Marti Leimbach
Mothers and sons
Domestic fiction
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
7.98x5.30x.85 in. .64 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

Daniel Isn't Talking Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$2.95 In Stock
Product details 288 pages Anchor Books - English 9780307275721 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Timely and uplifting, even if her characters narrowly escape central casting....Still, watching a handicapped child rend the fragile seams of a woman's personality and her marriage exposes us to some of the more honest and guilty realities of being a parent, and with it a mother's very human pursuit of a livable, if not perfect, ending."
"Review" by , "This novel...details a mother's guilt, depression and ultimate tenacity....Leimbach's strength is in creating characters who are human and fallible and become imbedded in your heart."
"Review" by , "Leimbach, herself the parent of an autistic child, 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."
"Review" by , "A skillfully crafted and bracingly unsentimental look at one mother's love...in the face of adversity."
"Synopsis" by , Leimbach, bestselling author of "Dying Young," has penned a fearless, unsentimental, and heartbreakingly real novel about a mother's devotion to her autistic child and all of the tangled relationships, compassionate moments, fear, and joy they experience along the way.
"Synopsis" by , Melanie Marsh is an American living in London with her British husband, Stephen, and their two young children. The Marshes orderly home life is shattered when their son Daniel is given a devastating diagnosis. Resourceful and determined not to acceptt what others, including her husband, say is inevitable, Melanie finds an ally in the idealistic Andy, whose unorthodox ideas may just prove that Daniel is far more “normal” than anyone imagined. Daniel Isnt Talking is a moving story of a family in crisis, told with warmth, compassion, and humor.
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