“Mark and Maggie’s annual drive east to visit family has gotten off to a rocky start. By the time they’re on the road, it’s late, a storm is brewing, and they are no longer speaking to one another. Adding to the stress, Maggie — recently mugged at gunpoint — is lately not herself, and Mark is at a loss about what to make of the stranger he calls his wife. When they are forced to stop for the night at a remote inn, completely without power, Maggie’s paranoia reaches an all-time and terrifying high. But when Mark finds himself threatened in a dark parking lot, it’s Maggie who takes control.”
My Thoughts: Listen to Me reads like a breezy, carefree novel with little conflict. Mark and Maggie still love each other; their life together is good. The only real issue is Maggie’s incessant fear about the world’s evils. However, it is Mark’s fear of the Internet and the trends he sees in anonymity and a lack of ownership that are truly fascinating.
At 208 pages, Listen to Me is more a novelette than it is a full novel. Neither Maggie nor Mark are completely developed, and the entire story takes place in the course of 24 hours while on their journey from Chicago to Charlottesville, VA. Yet, in spite of or maybe even because of its length and lack of developing details, Ms. Pittard is able to focus almost the entire story around Maggie’s fear of life and Mark’s fear of the Internet.
These fears are so easy to understand. Hop online, and you are bombarded with awful stories about death and crime. Perform a quick Internet search, and you will turn up a million and one ways people have changed since the advent of the Internet. In other words, these are not new ideas; Ms. Pittard only combines them into two characters and forces these characters – through the confines of a car ride – to dwell on these ideas and what it means for them and for others.
With its carefree style and fast pacing, Listen to Me is a quick read. The timing fits too as Maggie and Mark are embarking on their annual summer vacation. Regardless of how the book feels and reads, it still presents plenty of questions and ideas for rumination. In fact, it would make for a great discussion at a book club or among friends.