I received a review copy of this title from Pushkin Press.
The two main characters in this book have allowed other people to influence their lives to the point of misery. When their stories finally intersect, they serve as a comfort for each other and form a kind of unconditional friendship that both of them have desperately needed. Miriam hasn’t left her house in three years because of a traumatic incident for which she wrongly blames herself. As we get to know Miriam we learn that her mental health issues have stemmed from a lifetime of mental and physical abuse at the hands of her mother.
It is very difficult to read about Miriam’s story and I usually avoid books that describe child or animal abuse because it is just too upsetting. But Miriam’s resilient spirit and her drive to put the past behind her is uplifting. She is told when she is a very young child that her father died when she was an infant and the only other family member that she has any contact with is her maternal grandmother. But Miriam’s mother has not allowed her to see her grandmother and so her only source of comfort are letters from her grandmother. But Miriam’s mother is so cruel and jealous that she puts a stop to the letters which causes Miriam additional mental anguish. The cruelest punishment that is imposed on Miriam is that she is never allowed to talk above a whisper because her mother can’t stand any noise. The punishment for speaking above a whisper in her mother’s presence is nothing short of torture. As an adult Miriam continues to speak at a whisper and cannot break this abusive habit forced on her by her mother.
Ralph is also unhappy when we first meet him, but the source of his anxiety is his bizarre, demanding and overpowering wife. Ralph and Sadie met while in college and if she didn’t become pregnant with twins then the relationship would never have lasted. Sadie is bitter that she is forced to give up on her degree and the budding relationship with her roommate Allie. Sadie’s questioning of her sexuality and her unhappiness in something that has always stood in the way of Ralph and Sadie’s marriage. When Ralph accidentally uncovers this astounding secret, he flees his house and decides to live alone in the woods. It is in this woods that Miriam comes upon him during what is her first day out of her house in three years.
I have to admit that I was reading their separate stories at the beginning of the book, I wasn’t convinced that these two people with such separate lives would meet in a way that was believable. But Elliott masterfully weaves together the story so that Ralph and Miriam encounter each other under just the right circumstances. They are both kindhearted people and their sincere compassion allows them to give each other honest and frank opinions. Miriam slowly comes back to the world of the living and gains the courage to get a job and even go on a date. Ralph finally decides to go home and face his teenage sons and the wreck of his marriage.
Whispers Through a Megaphone is an uplifting book that shows us it’s never too late in life to form a friendship that is meaningful and gratifying. Great characters, an interesting plot and clever writing all make for a successful first book from Elliott.
About the Author:
For more information about the book and to hear Rachel read an excerpt visit the Pushkin Press website: http://pushkinpress.com/rachel-elliott-reads-from-whispers-through-a-megaphone/
7 responses to “Review: Whispers Through a Megaphone by Rachael Elliott”
I have been tasked with selecting a book for my except-for-me-all-female book club. I will read this book and then probably suggest it to the clubbers. Thank you!
Oh this would be fantastic for your book club. I would also recommend The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon. That one would make a great discussion as well.
Thanks, I will check this one out as well.
Only an American would flee to live in the woods when upset. 🙂
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Actually he British. The book is set in England.
How did you find that the writing style influenced your experience while you were reading? I can imagine that, with a story like this one, the way in which it’s told would make a big difference in terms of readers’ capacity to carry on with such an emotionally draining story (though it sounds like an unlifting story in the end).
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The author had what I would describe as a very easy-to-read, flowing style. So it definitely contributed to my enjoyment of the book. Sometimes these dual narrative books just don’t work but her writing style and characters made everything come together beautifully!
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