Listen to Me, by Hannah Pittard (2016)

Contemporary Fiction
Listen to MeMarital squabbles set Maggie and Mark off to a slow and troubled start on their annual road trip to his parents’ farm, with their dog Gerome. It’s earlier in the year than usual. Maggie is a vet and Mark is a tenured prof in Chicago, where classes are still in session. But Mark insists on the early break; he is worried about Maggie’s grip on reality since a mugger knocked her out on the street several months ago. She was in fact regaining her confidence, thanks to regular sessions with a therapist, until detectives showed up with photos of a young woman’s murder in hopes of identifying the killer. Maggie abandons her therapy and quickly spirals into an internet-fueled obsession with stories of abuse, crime and tragedy. Meanwhile Mark is considering a flirtation with a former student as he struggles with his emotions around Maggie, the woman he married and who she is now, and his own sense of guilt that he could not protect her from the violence in their neighbourhood. The couple heads out on the road under sunny blue skies, unaware that a tornado watch has been issued. As the skies darken, the sense of doom and pending disaster deepens, a metaphor for Mark and Maggie’s relationship. Pittard’s descriptions are palpable – I could feel the car’s AC struggle to keep up with the stormy humid air, and see the trees close in overhead as the car’s headlights try to show a way out of the storm. While more omniscient ink is spent on Maggie’s perspective than Mark’s, Pittard does explore both partners’ emotions and motivations over about 24 hours. Pittard delivers an unflinching look at marriage with all its plays and ploys: silent treatments, fantasies of revenge, the looks of love and anger, the coded touches, and so much more. It’s a difficult book to pin down in terms of genre – the publisher calls it a modern gothic, which is as good a description as any. My thanks to publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the advance e-copy provided through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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