The Whispers by Ashley Audrain
Published by Pamela Dorman Books
Publication date: June 6, 2023
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense
If there’s anything more fickle than the heart it’s got to be my reading mind as my light/dark trend continues. Tuesday’s review was about a poignant novel covering the expanse of human emotions, but today The Whispers, dwells solely in the realm of the seven deadly sins as they play out amongst four women in one affluent neighborhood.
Rebecca, an ER doctor, longs to be a mother, but has had multiple miscarriages. High-powered consultant Whitney seems to have it all with three children and a doting husband, but was having children was just one more item to check off on her to-do list and not something she’s ever really wanted? Then there is Blair, the earth mother and Whitney’s closest friend. She may only have one child, but she adores her daughter and revels in motherhood. On the edge of the neighborhood, and the story, is Mara, an elderly Portuguese woman who lives with her husband in one of the few unrenovated homes and is the silent observer of all that happens around her.
Author Ashley Audrain is not an author who wastes time on subtlety. The Whispers begins at Whitney’s annual summer party where everyone becomes privy to that most unfortunate and damning of all incidents—a mother melting down at her child. Whitney has gone from swanning through the party looking fabulous to screaming at her her 10-year-old son Xavier for his misbehavior. What she thought was a private meltdown on her part turns out to be public fodder thanks to an open window. Now, nine months later, Xavier has fallen out of his 3rd story bedroom window, is in a coma and the whispers have begun. In short order, the shiny surface of the women’s lives is peeled away and reality revealed. For each woman it’s a different level of dysfunction.
Whitney’s secret side has already been revealed, but has it? Rebecca’s been told she can’t ever carry a child to term. And while Blair is a devoted mother she’s being eaten alive by jealousy and the certainty that her husband is cheating on her with one of the other women. As Xavier lingers in his coma and Whitney sits mute at his bedside, refusing to talk or leave, the pages of The Whispers slink by with misbehavior inane and shocking rising to the surface.
The novel is a bleak take on the joys of motherhood, complete with a full cast of unpleasant characters, few of whom elicit sympathy, but it’s still addictive reading thanks to Audrain’s crisp writing. She knows exactly how and when to place even the smallest bits of action to maximize their shock value and keep the pages turning. There’s no need for explosive gestures, until that is, the final sentence, when The Whispers goes off like a nuclear bomb.
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