With so many books being published monthly, weekly and daily it is clear that some gems will manage to end up tucked on shelves without any real hoopla given to them, they have just slipped through the net (isn’t this a terrifying thought?) I was recently handed a book in work that has turned out to be just this. I had not really heard of it/seen it mentioned in reviews and the like but after a quick scan through the blurb I knew this was definitely a book I wanted to dip into and test out the waters. With a bright red attention grabbing cover ‘Whispers Through a Megaphone’ brought to mind the bold, block illustrations used for books such as ‘Where’d You Go Bernadette’ and my recent YA read ‘Dumplin’, which sends happy dopamine signals in my brain saying ‘PICK ME UP!’
We are introduced to Miriam, a 35 year old who isn’t necessarily making her presence felt at the moment. Having not stepped out of her house for three years and only speaking in the smallest of whispers, we watch as this clearly frightened young woman decides the time has came, change is coming. A list is quickly drawn up of things she would like to achieve, many of which would seem so everyday to most of us but clearly appear an Everest of a challenge to her. The one she can achieve straight away – cleaning her home nude (all will be revealed later!) and then the plan for 3 days later is to take the big leap, Miriam is going to venture out into the world again. She is not completely alone in taking on her challenges though. With the support of her best friend, always ready with words of advice while munching away on some snack or another (she reminded me of Brad Pitt where in a couple of films it was rumoured he wanted to appear in every scene eating something!), and her kindly next door neighbour, a quiet man who tends to his gardens and is always on hand to taken the bins out for his mysterious hermit of a neighbour. You get the impression that since the death of her mother she has cocooned herself with only those needed. Now it goes without saying that if a person has decided to lock themselves away for three years all is probably not going too well in their world (although I can’t lie, give me a cottage, my ‘to be read’ mountain & a supply of scrumptious food, I’d be as happy as the proverbial pig) but it becomes clear that Miriam was facing up to a lot of problems before the decision to firmly close the door of her home was made, but what was it that eventually tipped her over the edge? As her story played out I found I’d quickly come to care about this character and wanted her history unravelled so that I could understand the obvious distress she was in.
This novel does not tell the story of Miriam alone, her story runs parallel with Ralph, a man living in the same town. Where Miriam is having a problem leaving her house, Ralph is finding the opposite when he runs away without word to anyone during the birthday celebrations being thrown by his family. Having previously been a content gardener he is now living with the consequences of his wife pushing him into a new career path, that of a psychotherapist, something she thinks she can be proud of and brag about on the Twitter account she is pretty addicted to. Hours before Ralph’s attempt to escape from his life he has not only realised that his wife clearly doesn’t love him anymore but even worse, his patients know more about his relationship than he does as they are all following his wife’s blog detailing their staid state of affairs. Once on the run he finds himself at a clearing in a forest, an abandoned hut, barely standing, offers shelter and somewhere to take some time out of life, but this forest has pathways and these pathways track through other people’s stories too, he may not be alone for long.
I found myself really caught up in the lives of the characters presented to me in this novel, I found myself to be sympathetic to their problems and invested in how or if they would manage to work things out. A real pleasure for me was the way the author structured the plot, it reminded me of a fishtail plait, our two main protagonists stories start to come together and as they do then more and more strands are pulled in as we start to discover about all those surrounding them, family, friends and past loves, everybody has their part to play. Although this book tackled serious and heavy issues, I still came away with a smile on my face and nothing but pleasure at having spent time with the book, and Miriam especially, as company. So although this novel may not be getting all the press it deserves have a read and we can all shout about it through megaphones together.
Whispers Through A Megaphone by Rachel Elliott £12.99 (Pushkin Press)
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Until next time,