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The Waking of Annabel

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The Waking of Annabel, Cafe Voltaire.

There are probably a million ways to mess up a story as sweet and simple as the one Gabrielle Suzanne Kaplan (a Reader contributor) tells in The Waking of Annabel: three troubled people--a babbling mentally ill patient, a warm but doubt-filled social worker, and a professional but emotionally dead doctor--reach out to one another and are healed.

You can sentimentalize it, as the movie Nell did, by mucking things up with silly questions like "Wouldn't we all be better off speaking our own private languages in our plush little dream worlds?" Or you could turn Annabel's psychotic outbursts--traumatic memories mixed with generous helpings of Edgar Allan Poe's "Annabel Lee"--into endless scenery chewing.

Happily, Kaplan doesn't do either. Instead, in a series of beautifully written scenes--some told from Annabel's twisted point of view, some from the point of view of her only slightly healthier doctor and therapist--Annabel progresses from recently hospitalized patient to someone well on her way to recovery. Kaplan also resists telling too much of her story. She hints that the doctor and social worker begin dating, but she doesn't lose sight of who the main character is or why Annabel's story is more compelling.

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