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Friday, January 24, 2014

DECEMBER by ELIZABETH WINTHROP

Medium

A small family in crisis. Each trying to handle the situation in their own way, groping in the dark, not knowing what is the best way forward.

Isabelle is just eleven years of age. From being a quiet girl, she became someone who just lapsed into silence. This has gone on for nearly 250 days. Ruth and Wilson do not know how they are handling the present situation and how they should handle the future. An ultimatum has come up - it is now December and the school has said that unless she talks by January she cannot return to school. For the last few months Isabelle has done her school work at home and has submitted her papers every week, maintaining some semblance of normality.

There is no known trauma for the silence, no sign of abuse, no withdrawal into herself and after being to four psychiatrists Ruth feels she is a failure as a mother. She has given up her law practice to devote her time to Isabelle to try to get her to being "normal" and Wilson the father is bewildered. He loves his daughter, his daughter loves him but it seems to stop at that. 

The appearance of Jimmy - an uncle with unspecified mental illness, who seems eccentric to the parents seems to have found some kind of kinship with Isabelle who warms to him. With an injury that could be threatening the longed for event happens and Isabelle begins to speak.  I felt that Isabelle's silence seem self imposed and though she was unhappy (at times) how her silence was affecting all those around her, she found it impossible to break her almost promise to herself not to speak. Whether it was a punishment for Isabelle for some unknown fault or whether it was a punishment for her parents I couldn't quite fathom.

Why and how this happened is difficult to understand. This was the average house and the family seemed to have drifted on in difficult circumstances, just hoping for the best (eventually). That it happened is just happy coincidence.

Not a very happy story.

4 comments:

bermudaonion said...

There is a condition called selective muteness but I think it usually has a background of trauma. This does sound like a sad story.

Jackie Bailey said...

I read this book ages ago, but can remember next to nothing about it. I don't rememeber being that impressed by it. Even your review does little to jog my memory - it must have been a very average book!

Noelle the dreamer said...

Very good review Mystica! Thanks!

diaryofaneccentric said...

This sounds both sad and interesting. Great review!