Sunday, May 29, 2016

Book Review: "Listen to Me" by Hannah Pittard

Living with fear can be utterly debilitating, even when you consider yourself to be a fairly rational, even-tempered person. Maggie, a veterinarian who runs her own clinic, has always been in control of her life, but that control started to dissipate a bit when she was mugged at gunpoint. While that threw her for a bit of a loop, and her husband, Mark, indulged her panic and fears, she finally starts to pull herself back together again, and get back to her usual routines.

When the police come to Maggie after a college student in their neighborhood is murdered by a person they suspect is Maggie's attacker, too, she is utterly unprepared. It's both a comfort and a disaster when they realize the young woman's assailant is not the same as Maggie's, because now she knows her attacker is still at large. But more than that, seeing the crime scene photos unleash a torrent of fears within Maggie, fears which practically disable her emotionally because she spends nearly all of her time worrying that every move she makes, every place she goes, everything she does has the potential to expose her to disaster.

Mark doesn't recognize or understand this new woman his wife has become, and he definitely doesn't like her—in fact, he can't stand to be around her. As they plan for their annual summer vacation, when they drive to Mark's family back east, the very notion of traveling already has Maggie panicking and Mark bristling and questioning his future with his wife. And then things go from bad to worse, as their drive takes them directly into the path of torrential rainstorms and potential tornadoes, and every decision they make is, at least in Maggie's mind, fraught with peril.

This is an interesting book, unlike Hannah Pittard's two earlier novels, The Fates Will Find Their Way (utterly superb) and Reunion (also quite good). Pittard ratchets up the tension little by little, until you find yourself wondering where disaster will strike. Will one of Maggie's fears actually manifest itself, and she'll be proven right, or will she come completely unmoored on the trip? Will Mark lose his patience once and for all with Maggie?

I thought this was a really compelling concept, but I didn't feel the payoff was quite as worthwhile as I had expected. As Maggie enumerated her every fear, over and over and over again, and as every decision she and Mark made had her second-guessing and panicking, you could see fairly quickly how frustrating living with her must have been for Mark. After a while I, too, grew weary of her worrying about everything. And at the end of the day, I expected more from the book, and was disappointed by the fairly predictable (and upsetting) conclusion.

Listen to Me is a fairly fast read—in fact, I read the book basically in one day. Pittard is a tremendously talented writer, and her storytelling ability is still on display in this book, but I guess my expectations were higher because I enjoyed her first two books so much. There's still a lot of tension in this book, so you may find it that it ultimately fulfills you more than it did me. But that being said, I'll still be waiting for her next book!

NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

No comments:

Post a Comment