Book Review: Listen to Me by Hannah Pittard

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4.5/5 Stars.

“It was a matter of luck, life was. You could beg all you wanted for protection, you could pray or not pray to a god or to a devil, but what it all came down to was a simple game of chance.”

This taut little domestic novel about a middle-aged couple on a road trip is so ominous and disquieting that it almost reads like a horror story or a psychological thriller.

Tensions are especially high between Maggie and Mark as they set out for his parent’s house several states away. Months after being violently mugged, Maggie struggles with PTSD and continues to descend into the depths of paranoia and anxiety. Meanwhile, Mark secretly perceives this as weakness, and as he begins losing respect for his wife, finds himself on the cusp of having an affair.

Unfortunately, their road trip is doomed from the start, and it only worsens as a dangerous storm approaches and Maggie and Mark subsequently find themselves lost in rural West Virginia.

There’s a persistent sense of claustrophobia, isolation, paranoia, helplessness and dread that reflects not only the circumstances of their road trip, but their feelings toward each other. Maggie and Mark’s fears and misconceptions are put to the test as they attempt to make it through this ill-fated night.

If you enjoy domestic dramas, Listen to Me is a must-read. Pittard’s writing is full of stunning insights into human behavior and coupledom. Throughout, she maintains an omnipotent third-person voice that further illuminates the banal indifference of a universe in which good and bad things happen by chance, and without any reason at all.

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