Saturday, August 27, 2016

Review: "Listen to Me" by Hannah Pittard

With each of her three novels, author Hannah Pittard has given readers something completely different every time she comes out with a new book. Her debut novel, the fantastic The Fates Will Find Their Way, takes a concept that was famously put forth in Jeffery Eugendies debut novel The Virgin Suicides and makes it a little more accessible and emotionally impactful. Her second novel, the more traditional family in crisis story Reunion showed a bit of humor and pathos as a weekend funeral attended by three estranged siblings becomes an unexpected bout of healing for all three. Her new novel, Listen to Me, she finely dissects a marriage fraught with unspoken hostilities in a world filled with paranoia, and she views all this through the subjective lens of a thriller. She succeeds for the most part, with fully formed characters careening towards and ultimate meeting with menacing fate, but I felt Pittard was a little out of her element here: she doesn’t try to go for the reader’s jugular, as that is where novels like this succeed, and the culmination of everything was a huge letdown. It begins when Mark and Maggie, a 40-something couple, begin their road trip from Chicago to Mark’s parent’s farm in D. C. Maggie has just been the victim of a brutal mugging, and has become paranoid and distrustful: she buys a switchblade and hides it in her bed, and reads the news’ darker headlines to an unwilling Mark. This has distanced the couple, and Mark, is entertaining the idea of an affair. After each has a has a disquieting encounter with a local just outside Indianapolis on an already cursed trip, tensions get high, and in the parking lot of a rundown hotel, their place in each others lives will be tested. I found the flashbacks to when Mark and Maggie met, which has its own fateful implications, more fascinating than the present road trip. I was digging the pathos at hand, and the little ways Mark and Maggie subtly tore each other down without raising their voice, which is why I found the finale very rushed, poor and sporting no sharp teeth. A short novel that’s brilliantly written, just don’t expect your world to be moved.

Rating: 4/5

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