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The Whispers


The Whispers

Ashley Audrain took the literary world by storm with her award-winning debut novel, THE PUSH. I thoroughly enjoyed its chilling brutality and knew she was a writer to watch. THE WHISPERS, her sophomore effort, proves that she is no one-trick pony.

At the heart of the book is an upper-middle-class neighborhood in an unnamed city and four women whose stories become intertwined following a terrifying incident. First up is Whitney Loverly, who lives in the biggest house on the block with her husband and children. It is at a cookout in her backyard that the guests overhear Whitney verbally losing it on her 10-year-old son, Xavier, who is upstairs in his room. No one will forget this outburst, though they uncomfortably attempt to avoid discussing it in the moment.

"THE WHISPERS is an eye-opening and tightly wound thriller involving characters so real that they could exist in your own neighborhood."

Next we have Blair Parks, Whitney’s friend, who suspects that her husband is cheating on her. Her daughter, Chloe, is a friend of Xavier, but turns on him at school in harsh fashion. Rebecca Parry and her husband, Ben, live across the street from Whitney but don’t really know her all that well. Rebecca is a surgeon at the local hospital and has been trying in vain to have her own child for several years. We get to witness that heartache as she loses yet another baby, which she initially keeps from Ben.

The last part of this quartet is 82-year-old Mara Alvaro, the matriarch of the neighborhood, who is known for watching quietly from her front porch everything that happens on the block. She has seen and overheard many things that her neighbors might not want anyone to know about. It turns out that Mara also bears a dark secret of her own.

One night, for no apparent reason, Xavier falls from his third-story window into the yard below. He is rushed to the hospital where a team of medical professionals that includes Rebecca dives in to try to save him. He is in the ICU, in very bad shape and comatose. Whitney refuses to leave his side, even though most of the neighbors recall how angrily and violently she spoke to him in their presence. It is hard for anyone to think of this as a suicide attempt, and speculation of Whitney’s possible involvement will circulate.

The chapters run from near past to present and are each told from a different woman’s viewpoint. They are all well-crafted and complex. I especially felt for Rebecca, who is trying to save a life while not being able to give life to her own offspring. She laments that the fragility of life is something that she tries not to contemplate while at work --- but she cannot control her emotions.

Audrain pulls back the layers of this novel piece by piece, leaving readers suspended and helpless, knowing that the truth of what happened the night Xavier fell won’t be revealed until the very end of the book. THE WHISPERS is an eye-opening and tightly wound thriller involving characters so real that they could exist in your own neighborhood.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on June 9, 2023

The Whispers
by Ashley Audrain