Nancy Miller
September 12, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Itani vividly captures the isolation of a deaf girl seeking normalcy in her small Canadian town circa World War I. The epic story begins a few months after 5-year-old Grania O’Neill suffers a bout of scarlet fever that causes irreparable hearing loss. She spends more than a decade at the Ontario Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and returns home at 19, an accomplished — and newly married — schoolteacher. Then her hearing husband, Jim, is shipped off to the front lines in France, and Itani shuttles between his standard-issue battlefield yarn and Grania’s experience on the homefront. ”Deafening” resonates most when Itani focuses on the rich details of this unusual woman’s plight.

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