The Whispers – Ashley Audrain

From the author of THE PUSH, a pageturner about four suburban families whose lives are changed when the unthinkable happens–and what is lost when good people make unconscionable choices

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.

Book Info: Print length: 317 pages. Publisher: Penguin. Publication Date: 20 July 2023

ASHLEY AUDRAIN’S debut novel, The Push, was a New York TimesSunday Times (London), and number-one international bestseller, and a Good Morning America Book Club pick. It has sold in more than forty territories, and a limited television series is currently in development. Audrain previously worked as the publicity director of Penguin Books Canada, and prior to that she worked in public relations. She lives in Toronto, where she and her partner are raising their two young children. The Whispers is her second novel.

My Review:

I really enjoyed Ashley’s debut novel The Push (see my review here) which left me reeling and emotionally disturbed, so I knew that her second novel The Whispers had a lot to live up to.

The story is set in an affluent neighbourhood and is based around 4 families. Whitney and Jacob Loverly, who are successful, rich and at first glance appear to have it all. A 10 year old son, Xavier and gorgeous toddler twins Sebastian and Thea. Blair and Aiden Park are parents to Chloe. Blair is a stay-at-home mum and Whitney’s best friend. She’s convinced her husband is having an affair and secretly envies Whitney’s life and marriage. Rebecca and Ben Goldsmith are new to the neighbourhood, she’s an ER doctor, and are desperate for a child, however after countless miscarriages (could be a trigger for some readers) the failure to carry a child to term is affecting their marriage. Finally there is Mara and Albert, an elderly couple who have lived on the street for decades. Originally from Portugal Mara loves to spend her time watching her neighbours.

The blurb above tells you that an incident occurs at a BBQ hosted by The Loverly’s which starts the “whispers” around the neighbourhood. Rumours start to spread about Whitney’s behaviour towards her 10 year old son Xavier, but it’s when a terrible accident happens several months later and Xavier falls (??) out of his 3rd floor window leaving him in a coma, that the rumour mill goes into overdrive.

If you have read The Push and thought that was uncomfortable, then let me warn you now.. this is almost unbearable. We are taken on a brutal and often raw journey with these 4 different families, finding out their inner most secrets and thoughts, seeing them fall apart when their worlds are turned upside and it’s a really uneasy story.

There were certain chapters when I just felt “dirty and voyeuristic” and almost wanted to skim read as they were so dark and disturbing. Overall, The Whispers is a very dark and brutal look at friendship and motherhood, love, grief and fear.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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