Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 7/5/16
eBook review copy; 208 pages
Listen to me and I will speak: but first swear, by word
and hand, that you will keep me safe with all your heart.
Homer, The Iliad
Listen to Me by Hannah Pittard is a highly recommended modern gothic thriller.
Mark and Maggie are a forty-something-year-old couple who are going through a rough time in their relationship. The trouble started after Maggie, a veterinarian, was violently mugged. The aftermath left Maggie with an overwhelming fear, PTSD. She is scared of the evil and violence that can seemingly lurk everywhere. Nowhere is safe. Maggie is on the internet, obsessing over terrible, tragic attacks that have happened to other people and imagining they could happen to her. She was getting better, but when the police came by to talk to her because a college student in their neighborhood was killed in a mugging, she loses it again and sinks back into her fear and paranoia.
Mark, a college professor, has had enough of the fear, the mace, the internet searches, the thought to get a gun. He wants the old Maggie back, the woman he fell in love with. He decides that they need to take off from their home in Chicago to his parent's country house in Virginia asap to help mend their relationship.
As Mark and Maggie, along with her dog Gerome, take off, a storm is brewing, literally. The weather is bad along their route. Electricity is going out in the towns along the way and the rain is pounding down. They need to find some place to stop, but it seems everyplace is full. Perhaps the motel off the highway will have a vacancy.
The story is fast paced and takes place over 24 hours. Chapters alternate between the thoughts of Mark and Maggie, which is very effective way to develop both characters in this short novel. The tension builds gradually and your anxiety will be slowly rising as the storms worsen and their trip continues. When you reach the point where just want something to happen to break the tension, you won't want what does happen to be it, but Pittard takes it and makes a powerful social statement with the ending.
The writing is quite good. I was very absorbed in the back and forth between Mark and Maggie, what each of them was feeling and thinking apart from the other - the emotions, ruminations, assumptions, and suspicions. They both know their relationship is stressed, but what they share with each other isn't always exactly what they are thinking. This, aside from the startling ending, is the examination of a marriage under duress and how the two very different individuals in this relationship are handling the stress of their expectations.
Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.