Picks and Pans Review: Daniel Isn't Talking

updated 04/10/2006 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/10/2006 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Marti Leimbach


From enticing title to satisfying end, this tale of a mother's fierce devotion to her autistic son screams Hollywood screenplay; film rights have, in fact, been sold. But don't wait for the movie. Leimbach (whose Dying Young became a '91 Julia Roberts hit) has a gift for emotionally searing fiction leavened with humor, and Daniel is a gripping read. Diagnosed as autistic at 3, Melanie Marsh's son doesn't speak or make eye contact and has so many meltdowns his sister names them like hurricanes: Tantrum Annabel, Tantrum Louise. Melanie's stuffy Brit husband—and all the London experts—want to relegate him to a special school. But Marsh, a transplanted American who's retained her Yankee can-do spirit, feels sure there's a better way. With the help of a hunky Irish play therapist (we know where this is going), she devotes herself to making Daniel interact. Leimbach, whose own son is autistic, perfectly captures the single-minded intensity of maternal attunement. Helping Daniel, she notes, requires "courage, foolishness and quiet denial." You'll root for her all the way.

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