Listen to Me

Houghton Harcourt. Jul. 2016. 192p. ISBN 9780544714441. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780544715233. F
OrangeReviewStarThe story of a fraught road trip undertaken by a couple whose marriage is under stress, Pittard's glistening new novel (after Reunion) only seems to be in miniature. In fact, it opens up to show not just the depth and potential shattering points of all close relationships but also how danger—and, yes, evil—lurk at the outskirts of our lives, threatening to upend us unexpectedly. College professor Mark and his wife, Maggie, a veterinarian, are traveling from Chicago to his family's East Coast home because Mark senses they need a break; after a mugging, Maggie has become brooding and suspicious, not the woman Mark married. They leave late, with Maggie intent on giving their dog, Gerome, a good walk beforehand, and they're mostly bickering or silent as evening and tornado-grade storms approach. As Mark wrestles with thoughts of a former student and Maggie zigzags between tenderness and paranoia, a blackout descends, and they go off the beaten path to seek a place to stay. At a dark hotel, they find a bed and some real closeness, but tragedy erupts in a moment, leaving their future tentative if tentatively hopeful.
VERDICT Pitch-perfect in language and ominous in mood, Pittard's narrative telescopes enormous emotion and insight into a brief, compelling read. [See Prepub Alert, 1/11/16.]
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