Set on the eve of the Great War, Deafening is a novel of remarkable virtuosity and power spanning two continents and the life and loves of a young deaf woman in Canada named Grania O'Neill. As a result of a childhood illness, Grania's is a world without sound, a world bounded by a powerful family love that tries to insulate her from undue suffering. When it becomes clear that Grania can no longer thrive in the world of the hearing, her family sends her to live at the Ontario School for the Deaf where, protected from the often unforgiving hearing world outside, she learns sign language and speech.
Then she meets Jim Lloyd, a hearing man, and the two, in wonderment, begin to create a new emotional vocabulary that encompasses both sound and silence. But as history would have it, Jim must leave home only two weeks after their wedding to serve as a stretcher-bearer on the blood-soaked battlefields of Flanders. During this long and brutal war of attrition, Jim and Grania are pulled to the center of cataclysmic events that will alter civilization forever.