In he vein of a true classically gothic story, Listen To Me bends the reader to its will with an understated psychological awareness and doesn't let go, tight fingers gripping you long after you've devoured the last page, like the victim of some kind of natural disaster, standing in the wake of destruction.
It's quiet, but that fierce.
Every bit of dialogue and internal monologue, which flips back and forth between the perspectives of main characters Maggie and her husband Mark, is important. Even bits that seem to just be there for color add psychological detail that unravels the real state of their marriage and their lives.
It drove Mark nuts that they had a neurotic dog. Neurotic people had neurotic dogs, and Mark was not a neurotic person. And Maggie was a vet, for Christ's sake. It made no sense that Gerome wasn't a more natural pet.
Poor Gerome. Dogs are more intuitive than Mark is giving them credit for and his pup's "neurotic" behavior stems from those that he is exposed to. So, who is Mark really upset at when he is directing this vitriol towards his dog? It's moments like these, that take unpacking and refocus in an interesting way after you're finished reading, that make this book such a gem.
After a brutal mugging just blocks from her home, Maggie has turned into a completely different person, contracting into a shell of fear and becoming afraid to venture outside. To make things worse, she's obsessed with violence, searching the internet daily for news about heinous deeds committed and becoming a walking Guinness Book of violence statistics. She becomes distant from Mark and they fight easily, not knowing how to communicate with the other anymore.
Just as she's beginning to recover, policemen show up with photos from a murder that happened nearby, wondering if their suspect could be the man that mugged her. It turns out he isn't, but it's enough to send her in a downward spiral.
The couple heads out on their annual road trip to Mark's parent's despite warnings that the weather is turning foul. A compact, inescapable space already brews with psychological unease, but add in the mental instability of Maggie, a potentially floundering marriage, a headstrong driver, and a neurotic dog: trouble.
The storm chasing Maggie and Mark in this book is not just physical, it is metaphorical as well.
I should mention that I took this book along with me on a weekend road trip with Ouija and my boyfriend. No storms for us, but the eeriness of reading it on the road was enough to put everything into perspective.
I'm not sure if "psychological thriller" is quite the best way to categorize this book, though it definitely gets under your skin. It is a slow burner that requires your attention if you want to really catch all the nuances of the relationships being woven and unraveled. But it isn't a thriller in the traditional sense. I thought about "A Good Man is Hard to Find," that Flannery O'Conner road trip story that goes wrong in all the right ways. So chilling. A true southern gothic tale, and this book is definitely written with that tradition in mind.
I wondered a bit about the title, but the more I thought about it, the more I found a theme constantly flowing through this book, this thread of mistaken identity, of people misreading a situation. From the policemen at the beginning who ruin all Maggie's progress for no real reason, to Maggie and Mark's constant misreadings of each other, them thinking they don't need to listen to the storm warnings, a strange situation with a truck on the road, and almost every interaction in between leaves room for ambiguity. Maggie not quite knowing whether or not people mean her harm, and a bit of paranoia and biased perspectives definitely come into play.
Pittard brings a very realistic style of writing and digs deep into her characters minds, layering on the narrative in the way that life is layered and difficult to decipher. A brilliant piece of work.
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Associate editor, amateur photdographer, bibliophile, and occasional sleuth.