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Topic: Virtual Book Club - Annie's Song Discussion

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Subject: Virtual Book Club - Annie's Song Discussion
Date Posted: 9/15/2009 10:20 AM ET
Member Since: 2/2/2008
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Here it is, our first discussion.  :)

I would like to add a blanket Spoiler alert for this thread - in order to allow for free flowing discussions, we will be exploring all parts of the book, most likely giving away the entire story line.  Please do not read this thread if you wish to read the book without any preconceived notions.

Feel free to answer any or all questions listed, I came up with quite a few, but we don't need to touch on all of them.

  1. Overall, how did you feel anout the book?  About Annie? About Alex?
  2. Maddy was an interesting supporting character, did she lend enough to the story?  Too much? Was her character developed enough?
  3. Annie's parents - considering the time period, how do you feel they handled Annie's disability?
  4. Do you think that Alex was the one to shape Douglas' behavior?
  5. Thinking about the book opening and the five men, were their actions believeable?
  6. When Douglas was kicked out of the house, do you think he went after Alan? What would it have added or detracted from the book had that been explored more?
  7. Do you feel the Author gave enough time for the romance to develop and Annie to come into her own, or was it rushd?
  8. Have you had a close relationship with someone who is deaf?  Does Annie's actions and abilities hold true with your experience?
Date Posted: 9/15/2009 2:24 PM ET
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I'll go ahead and get some discussion going.....

1.  Overall, I liked the book, which at the halfway point I definitely could not say that.  It took me a long time to like it.  I didn't like the way people treated Annie like an infant.  I didn't like Annie's parents.  I didn't like how Alex had no problem at first trying to steal the baby from her.  I like my stories to be an escape from reality and this started out with way too much realism for me.  On the otherhand though, this is what proves to me what a great writer Ms. Anderson is.  She got me all riled up and made me think and made me react to her story, I didn't just escape into it.  It pulled me in all directions. 

I really warmed up to Alex.  I thoughht his desire to really truly help Annie when he realized what was wrong, was sweet and it made me really like him and cheer for him.  I wanted him to win the girl.  I wanted him to have success in reaching annie because she really deserved someone to love her disability and all.  Not to say her parents didn't love her, but I don't think they even knew where to begin and their fear of her being mad truly clouded their judgement to the point where they were doing her more harm than good.

Annie was an interesting character.  I have never read a romance book where the heroine had a disability.  I have read some where the supporting characters did, but never the main character.  I like the fact that Ms. Anderson took something that was different and showed how it doesn't matter who or what you are, everyone deserves to be loved and is capable of love and needs love in their life to grow and be who, I think, we all are meant to be.  She was a very strong woman in her own way who really lucked out finding someone like Alex in a time period where they didn't know how to deal with the unknown.

Date Posted: 9/15/2009 2:58 PM ET
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Since it's been a few weeks since I read the book, and I forgot to bring my copy with me to work, I'll start off by answering a few of the discussions based on what I remember:

1.) I really liked this book. Like Jennifer, I had never read a romance where the heroine had a disability, and I thought Anderson did an excellent job of portraying both Annie's ordeal, as someone completely misunderstood because of her deafness, as well as the position Alex was forced into due to his brother's recklessness. The whole situation made me feel uncomfortable at first, which to me is a sign of Anderson's ability to make her characters and their story truly real. I was enraged by the actions of Annie's parents, commiserated with Alex as he was torn by the decisions he had to make regarding both Annie and his brother, and was ecstatic, right alongside Annie, as she realized that, despite how the world may view her, she found someone in Alex who truly loved her and wanted what's best for her (even though he made some really effed up choices in that regard).

Alex was a really interesting character, but my only lament was that he was almost too perfect, too understanding, too sweet. I don't know, it was almost like he was overly self-sacrificing. Or, maybe I've just become jaded by all of the alpha males I read about in most romances, lol. 

Annie — at first, I was kind of put off by her. I mean, you're deaf, not the simpleton everyone thinks you are, so why not at least try to communicate that to your own parents? I understand, it was probably a sign of the times that she felt too intimidated to confront her mother and father and say, 'Hey, I may not be able to hear what you're saying, but I'm actually pretty smart, so quit talking about me like I'm an imbecile.' It seemed to me like she was too resigned to her fate without really fighting for herself. Again, probably the mindset of the time, but it bothered me. 

* I'll probably have more to add to this once I have a chance to flip through the book again.



Last Edited on: 9/15/09 3:13 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/15/2009 3:03 PM ET
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I thought the story was original and that the author was courageous to write about a deaf heroine. The writing was engaging.

On one level I enjoyed it as a cute romance, but on another level I was disturbed. To me the central question was your #7:

Do you feel the Author gave enough time for the romance to develop and Annie to come into her own, or was it rushed?

I'd prefer to have seen Annie develop more and learn to navigate society on her own before deciding her future.

Date Posted: 9/15/2009 3:05 PM ET
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Thinking about what you said about Annie, I would have to agree, why didn't she try and say something.  But maybe she did and that is when her mother beat her.  I think I remember reading that her mother wouldn't allow her to speak and her parents often beat her, so that probably had a lot to do with it.  Better to go along with the flow than stir that hornets nest.  A lot of that has to do with the time period too.  It was a time when parent did beat their children and no one thought anything of it or did anything about it, I guess I should say.  Its also a time period if you didn't understand something, just ignore it and hopefully it will go away.

lol, so I guess Gina, I agree with you completely.  :)

Date Posted: 9/15/2009 3:09 PM ET
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Cateyereader - I have to say, I was surprised when she wanted nothing to do with the school and just wanted to go home and be the happy homemaker.  I think her character was developing to a point where she would have liked to explore that side of her disability and to be able to do things on her own.  I was disappointed in that decision myself. 

Could that be a sign of the times as well?  I think that Anderson was most likely staying true to the time period and not bring moden day ideaologies (sp?) into the picture.

Date Posted: 9/15/2009 3:12 PM ET
Member Since: 2/3/2009
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4.) Alex may have spoiled his brother rotten and allowed him to get away with way too much as a child, but in my opinion, that level of evilness is in no way learned. To rape a defenseless woman, let alone one who he believed to be a half-wit, in front of witnesses as if it were sport is beyond "bad behavior." Douglas had no soul — that's not something that is brought on by having too few "time-outs" as a child, or by being coddled by an older brother. If Douglas had simply stolen something and felt he could get away with it because he's rich and his brother has power, yes, maybe I could believe that Alex unknowingly encouraged that kind of behavior by not disciplining him enough. But rape? And to be completely without an ounce of remorse? Uh-uh. Douglas was a bad seed, and the complete opposite of Alex, so I don't think Alex could have shaped Douglas into the "man" (I use that term loosely) that he became.

Date Posted: 9/15/2009 3:15 PM ET
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"I have to say, I was surprised when she wanted nothing to do with the school and just wanted to go home and be the happy homemaker.  I think her character was developing to a point where she would have liked to explore that side of her disability and to be able to do things on her own.  I was disappointed in that decision myself."

That didn't bother me, because I thought the whole point was that Annie wanted to be able to make her own decisions, to have it recongized that she knew her own mind and feelings - to be heard.

Date Posted: 9/15/2009 3:18 PM ET
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Very valid point Willa.  I think I am looknig at it too much with my modern, why don't you want to learn as much as you can, eyes.  Taking a step back, I can definitely see your point. 

Date Posted: 9/15/2009 3:20 PM ET
Member Since: 2/3/2009
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On a side note: This totally brings me back to college and the countless essays I had to write as a literature major. :-D

Date Posted: 9/15/2009 3:20 PM ET
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Gina - what do you think about Alex feeling that Douglas turned out that way because he didn't have the example of thier father growing up, that he didn't have a model citizen to watch and learn from.  Not to say that Alex wasn't a model citizen (took real guts to go to Annie's Father to apologize for what his brother did) but, Alex was still young and learning himself.

Date Posted: 9/15/2009 3:21 PM ET
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Gina, lol, I was thinking the same thing when I answered the first question.  I totally felt like I was answering an essay.  lol

Date Posted: 9/15/2009 3:27 PM ET
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Jennifer and Willa - My problem wasn't that she didn't like school, it was that Alex was courting her when she was totally dependent on him. I know that's a modern view and that Alex rescued her from a lifetime of mistreatment. I was just bothered that she had no other friends and no where to go while he was telling her he wanted sex. I know she fell in love with him, but she was so emotionally vulnerable that I still felt kind of icky about it. By the time she went to school, I thought her need for him was too great for her to benefit from it. If the author had reversed it - had her go to school, make friends, learn to be in the world and then choose to go back to Alex, I would have enjoyed it more. I'm sure that's not an 1890s viewpoint. :)

Edited because i was responding to a different post.



Last Edited on: 9/15/09 4:33 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/15/2009 3:38 PM ET
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Gina - what do you think about Alex feeling that Douglas turned out that way because he didn't have the example of thier father growing up, that he didn't have a model citizen to watch and learn from.  Not to say that Alex wasn't a model citizen (took real guts to go to Annie's Father to apologize for what his brother did) but, Alex was still young and learning himself.

I can't place myself in Alex's shoes — I've never felt responsible for another's death — but I thought Alex's guilt was a bit much, seeing as how the whole firecracker thing was a total accident. But yes, I understand how Alex would feel guilty for his brother not having a father growing up, but again, I don't feel that Douglas's behavior can in any way be excused just because he didn't have a daddy. Acting out to get attention is one thing. Rape without feeling a bit of shame is an entirely different story. Alex may have been without a father during his younger years, but he wasn't without a father figure. Alex was a good man, just a little soft when it came to his brother. Douglas's carousing, drinking and total lack of respect for anyone isn't something that I feel he could have learned from Alex, because Alex was a good role model. Just my opinion. :-)

Date Posted: 9/15/2009 3:39 PM ET
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"If the author had reversed it - had her go to school, make friends, learn to be in the world and then choose to go back to Alex, I would have enjoyed it more."

I'm confused, because isn't that exactly what she does?  Expect perhaps for the being in the world part.

Date Posted: 9/15/2009 3:50 PM ET
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I have to agree with on the guilt that Alex felt.  I was surprised when they finally told us how his dad died.  Its not like he threw a firecracker underneath him and blew him to smitherines, it was an accident caused by the horses being spooked and not calming down in time to avoid a wreck.  There was nothing to those carriages in those times.  its no wonder that two people could easily die in a carriage crash.

I do think that had Douglas grown up with his parents he may have turned out differently.  He MAY (not saying for sure, there really is no way to know) have been more respectful and have more manners and a better sense of what was right or wrong.  Then again, who knows what their parents were like, he may have learned that bad behavior directly from them.  But I definitely don't think it was because the Alex bailed him out of trouble all the time.  Besides, when it came right down to something so bad that Douglas clearly crossed the line, not even Alex could excuse his behavior which should have been Alex's first clue that it wasn't the way he raised Douglas that caused the inicident.

Date Posted: 9/15/2009 3:53 PM ET
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I liked the book a lot.  It was heartwarming as well as heartbreaking, and I liked Anderson's style of writing.  I enjoyed getting the perspective of both the hero and heroine.  I also appreciated some of the humor throughout the book.  The scene toward the end when Annie was leaving on the train and the mouse escaped, and the story that Alex made up about it being some rare breed worth $1000 was hilarious!

I did not like Annie's parents.  I did become more forgiving of her mother as the book went on, but in the beginning I thought she was cold and selfish and concerned only about appearances.  By the end of the book, I thought of her more as a woman who had a lot of fear and that is what motivated her for the most part.  She felt responsible for making her husband look good in public and ensuring his success, she feared being judged for having a handicapped daughter, and she feared the so-called madness being passed to Annie.  I think that her fears skewed her ability to be rational, and any signs that there might have been of Annie's intelligence and understanding were missed because her mother was always looking for signs of the madness, so she misinterpreted a lot.  By the end of the book, I felt more sorry for her mother than anything else.  Her father- well, he was a selfish jerk from beginning to end.

I think don't think that Alex was responsible for how Douglas turned out, but I think that he felt that he was, and was too soft on him as a way to compensate for his own inadequacies.  Douglas probably would have been troubled no matter what, given his attitude of entitlement.

Annie herself was probably the most interesting character in the book.  It was apparent that she had no hope of ever being "normal", and though she was an emotionally and mentally very strong person (a real contrast to what her mother feared her to be, in fact), she knew that her family could never accept her the way she was.  But instead of being defeated, she found other things to live for and retreated into her own world where she could be who she wanted to be.  I thought the author did a very good job of demostrating Annie's reluctance to share her world with Alex, which required a level of trust that she had in no one, and the pace of the development of their relationship was right on.  The only thing that bothered me was that once they fell in love, Annie seemed to lose all reservations whatsoever and put her trust completely in Alex, and I just don't think that someone who has spent a lifetime of being rejected and trusting no one would throw caution to the wind in that manner.  I think in reality, someone in that position would always have some trust issues.  So to me, that part was not very plausible.

That's all I have time for now, but am enjoying reading the other comments!

Date Posted: 9/15/2009 4:08 PM ET
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But instead of being defeated, she found other things to live for and retreated into her own world where she could be who she wanted to be.

That first scene in the attic, where Alex discovers Annie's "tea party," was so touching, don't you think? I think I fell in love with Alex a little bit myself, there. In regards to Annie losing any reservations once she fell in love with Alex, I see your point, Lesley. But I think it depends on the person. There are many people out there with self-esteem issues (which Annie undoubtedly suffered from) who might pour all of their hopes and dreams into the first person who treats them without disdain. Especially in Annie's case. I don't think she was exposed to society enough to truly know what was right and wrong, and how awful she was treated. Here's a woman who has been treated like a misbehaving dog for most of her life, then along comes a dashing and sweet man who does everything in his power to help her, and gives her her first sense of worth by another being. Who wouldn't fall hopelessly in love! lol

Date Posted: 9/15/2009 4:11 PM ET
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Gina that's so sweet and makes perfect sense to me.  I agree.  That helps me to better understand how she fell so completely in love.

I thought it was sweet too when he danced with her.  I would love for that to happen to me too!  :)

Date Posted: 9/15/2009 4:22 PM ET
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  1. Overall, how did you feel anout the book?  About Annie? About Alex? Overall I liked Annie and Alex both. The book started off disturbing at the way Annie was treated and I was afraid it'd go through til the end without them realizing she has feelings and a brain.
  2. Maddy was an interesting supporting character, did she lend enough to the story?  Too much? Was her character developed enough? Maddie was minimized yet I think she's the only reason Alex realized Annie was deaf and not crazy and that she was being abused by the nurse he'd hired. She also wrote the letters to him while Annie was at school hinting he'd better get up there and get them. Without her things would have dragged on forever I think.
  3. Annie's parents - considering the time period, how do you feel they handled Annie's disability? I guess for that time period they did 'the norm' but the mother not only cowered to her husband but slapped her daughter which is seen at her wedding when Annie drew back like was was gonna be slapped.
  4. Do you think that Alex was the one to shape Douglas' behavior? no. he indulged him but grown men with a conscience do not rape women
  5. Thinking about the book opening and the five men, were their actions believeable? maybe for that time but if what's-his-name had the nerve to tell on Douglas later seems he'd had had the balls to prevent what happened, esp with others to help him. I suppose the alcohol affected their actions but I'd hate to think I'd lived with the knowledge of watching someone be raped when I could have prevented it.
  6. When Douglas was kicked out of the house, do you think he went after Alan? What would it have added or detracted from the book had that been explored more? I wanted Douglas to hang myself but oh well. If he'd gone after Alan it would've advertised what he'd done.
  7. Do you feel the Author gave enough time for the romance to develop and Annie to come into her own, or was it rushd? It seemed kind of rushed to me and a lot at once for her with the instruments and everything; almost like a father-daughter thing at times.
  8. Have you had a close relationship with someone who is deaf?  Does Annie's actions and abilities hold true with your experience? nope haven't had any personal experience but some of the actions seemed to be what I'd expect and others didn't.

Overall I liked the book a lot and it just makes me sad to think someone was abused and treated as though they had no feelings at all. To never have a new dress and realize you were being treated differently. she probably would have done better if her parents had sent her to an institution where they could have seen she was only deaf and not crazy. but even a crazy person shouldn't have been beaten like she was.

Date Posted: 9/15/2009 4:38 PM ET
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Gina - That's a great description of the romance.

Willa - I just meant that the sex came before school.

Date Posted: 9/15/2009 7:24 PM ET
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First I confess to not reading all the posts yet.

I'm never very good at discussing a book after I've read it but I'll try.

 

I'm just going ot put my opinions and not really go down the list of questions.

First I love Catherine Anderson and so far in most of the books I've read the heroine has been abused, is handicapped in some way or has suffered a very traumatic experiece.  (Comanche Heart would probably be a good book discussion book-I won't go into the reasons incase someone hasn't read it yet).  Anyway

 

I think it's hard for us modern people to accept what went on in the book and the actions of the parents and the hero.  I just had to put them into context in that the book takes place in the 1890's.  A time when when sign lanquage wasn't as widely used and when people just dealt with handicaps differently.  Like putting a deaf child into a mental institution when there was nothing mentally wrong with them.  Now did I like the parents? No.  I thought the mother was an idiot.  But she was probably a fairly typical woman of the time as far as feeling the need to protect her husband's career and reputation.  This was a time when woman were still very much at the mercy of men for their survival and that of their children.

I'm glad that Alex figured it out pretty quickly.  I would not have liked the book if it went on for a long time with him still thinking she was mentally challenged. I mean it was hard to think of a 20 yr old woman doing some of hte things she did-like playing dress up and tea parties.  But since she wasn't allowed to mature in a normal way -I could see it.  It was understandable that she would build this fantasy life where she was normal. 

I do think that Alex has some responsibility in how Douglas turned out.  I don't think he's completely responsible. But maybe if Douglas had been made to face some of his wrong doings at a younger age-he might have turned out different. 

I think Gina gave a perfect description of how understandable it was for Annie to fall in love with Alex so quickly.  He and Maddy were the 1st people to treat her like a human being. 

I was hoping Maddy would turn into more of a mother figure to Annie. Although then we wouldn't have had those great scenes where Alex is trying to tell Annie about where babies come from and how they get out. 

 

Date Posted: 9/15/2009 9:03 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
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Until I get mine & finish it, I can only comment on question #1, but keep in mind that my opinion may soften a bit on reading the entire book (I got a third of the way through before putting it to the wall:P).  I found it gratuitous and offensive, and I don't say that lightly.  I don't mind violence in my romances.  Rape isn't even particularly offputting if it makes sense for it to be in there, and it isn't the hero who did the raping.  Heroines with disabilities, even misunderstood heroines with disabilities, are no problem.  I enjoyed Mary Balogh's Silent Melody when I read it, and I have certainly seen authors put their heroines through more than their fair share of suffering.  What bothers me about this book is that only so much if what Annie was put through seemed necessary, and the rest was just gratuitous.  The "villain" was as one-dimensional, evil for the sake of being evil, as he could get.  Alex indulging him & him losing his parents do not a rapist make.  Rape is an act of violence & it's not about sex.  Someone who perpetrates such an act on a helpless girl who he perceives to be the village idiot, and then refuses to be held accountable for it, is sick, and that kind of sickness can't be cured by a firm hand.

I would have rather seen Annie's parents portrayed in slightly more supportive roles.  They could have agreed to the marriage without coming across as selfish & idiotic - just MHO.  I thought Alex was kind & noble and all that, but I also thought he had a bit of a martyr complex.  He seemed to want to blame himself for everything.  The main reason why I put this book aside and had no desire to pick it back up was because, to me, it looked like a train wreck.  Carnage and suffering just for the sake of making the heroine as tragic a figure as she could possibly be, and it turned me off on Anderson altogether.  I haven't been able to pick up another Anderson book since.



Last Edited on: 9/15/09 9:05 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/15/2009 10:07 PM ET
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This thread is making me think about how historical I like my historicals... I tend to shy away from novels set in the past where everyone speaks 21st century American English, but I have trouble adjusting my social attitudes.

(BTW, Jennifer, thanks so much for organizing this discussion!)

Date Posted: 9/16/2009 9:44 AM ET
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Overall, how did you feel anout the book?  About Annie? About Alex?  I enjoyed the story but came away feeling like everything was a bit rushed, that the "magic" power of love suddenly cured everything. I was also bothered by the vacillation between 19th century  and 21st century thoughts and behavior, stick to one or the other not both. I would have liked to see the relationship between Annie and Alex develop over a longer timeline, and as another poster mentioned, after Annie had had more exposure to the rest of the world.

I liked Annie, how she creativelly interpreted events, baby=egg, her delight in hearing any sound, making friends with the mice, and how she could be quite stubborn and opinionated.

Alex was a bit too good to be true, he seemed to think and act more like a 21st century man. I thought the guilt over his parents death was a little overdone, esp. since he was 16 or so at the time, if he had been younger say 7-10 years old the guilt would have made more sense (concrete versus abstract thinking). And of course he had to feel so responsible for his brother, the part of the story where he offers to marry Annie was the hardest for me to "believe".  Much of the story followed 19th century thinking, and I'm supposed to believe he was willing to marry a woman he thought was crazy? Given the era it would have made much more sense for him to provide financial support during her pregnancy and maybe adopt out the baby (big maybe given how everyone thought the maddness was inherited). And yes, sometimes Alex and Annie's relationship seemed to have some father/daughter overtones that icked me out a bit.

Maddy was an interesting supporting character, did she lend enough to the story?  Too much? Was her character developed enough? "  Maddy seemed like a plot device, her role consisted of pointing Alex in the right direction but not actually interacting with Annie. I too was hoping for a bit more mothering from her.

Annie's parents - considering the time period, how do you feel they handled Annie's disability? While I didn't like the parents and thought the father inparticular was a real jerk, I do think they handled Annie in a very realistic manner for the era.That the mother would not allow Annie to be sent away to an institution even though having Annie at home jepardised her husband's career plans was one of the things that allowed me to belive that she loved Annie as best she could.

Do you think that Alex was the one to shape Douglas' behavior? No, the story indicated that while Alex did "clean up" after Douglas and had been soft on him, Alex had also tried very hard to model good behavior for Douglas. Plus, when push came to shove, Alex kicked Douglas out.

Thinking about the book opening and the five men, were their actions believeable? Unfortunately yes, bullies tend to attract weak followers. I was surprised that any of the four tag alongs even had the guts to speak up.

When Douglas was kicked out of the house, do you think he went after Alan? What would it have added or detracted from the book had that been explored more? No, I think Douglas would have viewed Annie, not Alan, as the reason for his dismissal. In the big confrontation with Alex it is Annie who is mentioned constantly, not Alan. Plus, as a bully he would probably prefer to pick the weakest target to vent his anger on. I was surprised that he didn't show up again later in the book and have a confrontation at some point with Annie. Douglas didn't strike me as someone who would just quietly go away.

Do you feel the Author gave enough time for the romance to develop and Annie to come into her own, or was it rushd? Answered with the first question.

Have you had a close relationship with someone who is deaf?  Does Annie's actions and abilities hold true with your experience? No.

Great discussion ladies, I've enjoyed reading all the different insights. Thanks for setting this up Jennifer.

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