The Whispers by Ashley Audrain #review

Book cover of The Whispers by Ashley Audrain

Title: The Whispers
Ashley Audrain
Publisher: Michael Joseph


The Loverlys sit by the hospital bed of their young son who is in a coma after falling from his bedroom window in the middle of the night; his mother, Whitney, will not speak to anyone. Back home, their friends and neighbors are left in shock, each confronting their own role in the events that led up to what happened that terrible night: the warm, altruistic Parks who are the Loverlys’ best friends; the young, ambitious Goldsmiths who are struggling to start a family of their own; and the quiet, elderly Portuguese couple who care for their adult son with a developmental disability, and who pass the long days on the front porch, watching their neighbors go about their busy lives.

The story spins out over the course of one week, in the alternating voices of the women in each family as they are forced to face the secrets within the walls of their own homes, and the uncomfortable truths that connect them all to one another.

Set against the heartwrenching drama of what will happen to Xavier, who hangs between death and life, or a life changed forever, THE WHISPERS is a novel about what happens when we put our needs ahead of our children’s. Exploring the quiet sacrifices of motherhood, the intuitions that we silence, the complexities of our closest friendships, and the danger of envy, this is a novel about the reverberations of life’s most difficult decisions.

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My review:

The Whispers is an intriguing and character-driven novel by the author of The Push, which I also loved.

The book follows several neighbours as they navigate society’s expectations and their own experiences of family life and marriage. Whitney is a working mum who often feels guilty for not spending enough time with her kids. Rebecca is a doctor who desperately wants children but has had several miscarriages. Blair’s marriage seems to be on the rocks, as she is convinced her husband is having an affair, plus she’s feeling trapped as a stay-at-home mum. And Mara still blames herself for what happened to her son years ago.

The novel’s main event is Whitney’s son’s accident, which sets off a chain of events that exposes the secrets and lies that the neighbours have been keeping from each other. The book is a slow burner, focusing more on the characters’ relationships than on a fast-paced plot. However, I found the book to be very engaging. The characters are complex and flawed, but they are also relatable at times. I found myself rooting for them, even when they were making bad decisions.

The Whispers is a bleak book at times, but it is also a realistic and honest portrayal of motherhood and family life (or I assume so, anyway – I don’t have children myself). It does not seem to shy away from the challenges and heartaches that can come with these experiences for some. However, it also shows the strength and resilience of the human spirit. Recommended.

My rating: 4/5


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