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April 08, 2006

Book Review – Speak Softly, She Can Hear

Pam Lewis: Speak Softly, She Can Hear : A Novel

My friend Pam Lewis has written an excellent thriller Speak Softly, She Can Hear set mainly in New York City and central Vermont.  This isn’t the rural Vermont of Howard Frank Mosher’s Kingdom County nor are the characters the eccentric nth generation Vermonters of Mosher’s books.  This is the semi-rural Vermont that Pam, Mary, I and many others of our generation migrated to in the 60s and 70s.  The characters are ex-urbanites who can and do get in trouble in the woods and deep snow.  Been there, done that.

The story starts with a trip from NYC to Stowe, Vt (where Mary and I live now) by protagonist Carole and her friend Naomi.  They have a plan to lose their virginities before graduating from high school and have brought out-of-work actor Eddie along to help with the project.  But something goes very wrong! (this IS a thriller; I can’t tell you much).

Carole starts out as a very weak person.  But she gains strength under a tremendous burden.  Trouble is that the burden intensifies as well.  You won’t know until the last chapter who and what breaks first.

I like books in which characters develop under the pressure of the plot.  They’re hard to write, though.  The characters can’t appear to be puppets of the author.  The characters they become have to be credible progressions from the starting characters.  Pam’s written that kind of book.

She also has a sharp eye for the pride and prejudice on New Yorkers, whether in their native habitat or transplanted to Haight-Ashbury or the woods of Vermont.  And the suspense is great.

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