The Whispers: A Novel - book cover
Women's Fiction
  • Publisher : Pamela Dorman Books
  • Published : 06 Jun 2023
  • Pages : 336
  • ISBN-10 : 1984881698
  • ISBN-13 : 9781984881694
  • Language : English

The Whispers: A Novel

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.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for The Whispers:

"The Whispers is spellbinding, a shimmering, visceral ride…Nobody delves as deep into the guts of motherhood as Ashley Audrain, she really is in a league of her own."
-Lisa Jewell, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Family Remains

"Enticing, nuanced, and unflinching, The Whispers opens a secret portal into the private lives of women in suburbia."
-Nita Prose, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Maid

"No one understands the secret lives of women like Ashley Audrain. In her electrifying new novel, The Whispers, the unspoken fears, desires, and shame of four neighbors threaten the lives they've so carefully constructed. It's a razor-sharp page-turner. Masterful!"
-Carley Fortune, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Every Summer After

"Riveting… a fearless deep dive into the real internal lives of women. The Whispers is a brilliant, deeply affecting novel you won't soon forget."
-Shari Lapena, New York Times bestselling author of Everyone Here Is Lying

"The Whispers is a masterwork: a page-turner, a searing emotional rollercoaster and a beautifully-written hymn to the pain, the love, the fury of motherhood. I could think about nothing but Ashley Audrain's perfectly-drawn characters in the three days it took me to tear through this novel, and I suspect they will live on in my mind for a long time to come. Sensational."
-Rosie Walsh, New York Times bestselling author of The Love of My Life

"Driven by desire, jealousy and revenge, everyone is under suspicion an...

Short Excerpt Teaser



Thursday morning

It's five thirty in the morning on a Thursday in June. Blair Parks sips her coffee and thinks about her husband spreading the thighs of another woman as wide as butterfly wings.

She imagines him smelling her. And then tasting her, his tongue circling, flicking.

Blair's hand covers her mouth. She puts her cup down.

She can't sleep. But she's been doing this in the morning now, indulging these obscene thoughts. Nothing feels good about starting her day like this, but it helps to satisfy her obsessive worrying so she can move on. Otherwise, she'll find herself consumed when she doesn't want to be. Staring at the shelf of stain removers at the store, the ones in commercials that desexualize middle-aged stay-at-home mothers like her, while she imagines a younger woman's mouth filled with her husband's semen.

She pours a second cup that won't taste as good as the first and thinks about how hungry she is for something more. Although what, she can't name. The problem isn't just boredom. Or a wistful longing. Not her sedate, ten-year marriage and the ticking clock to complete irrelevance. Is this normal? Is this how other women her age feel?

The idea of saying any of this aloud, to anybody, makes her diaphragm tighten. More than usual. It's better to lift her chin and quietly face whatever hour is ahead of her. And the next hour after that, lest anyone suspect she's this miserable. It's beneficial for everyone, she knows, if the indifference takes over. If she soldiers on, without the energy to care about what it is she really wants. Or how she really feels when her alarm goes off in the morning.

Vulnerability, she knows, is something she should work on, something women are now supposed to exercise like a muscle. The books and podcasts and motivational speakers have told them so. She tries to admire the ones who admit they've made choices they regret and resolve, loudly, to change. But that kind of upheaval is not for her. She cannot see any other life for herself. And she cannot separate the shame of having gotten it all so wrong.

Another cup later, her daughter's bedroom door squeaks on its hinges upstairs. Her footsteps tap down the hardwood in the hallway. The toilet flushes in their only bathroom, and the plumbing hisses through the house. Blair wipes her hand across her tired face.

Somewhere along the line, blaming Aiden for the way she felt about her life became convenient. He's been a reliable depository for her anger. She dumps and dumps and dumps, and he never seems to overflow. In her mind, there was little consequence to this-they are married, and separation isn't an option for Blair. The dismantling, the shape of everything changing. The perception. The impact on the daughter upstairs. She can't fathom it.

The water runs from the bathroom tap. She hears Chloe pop open the mirrored cabinet where their three toothbrushes share a cup. She puts a bagel in the toaster for her daughter's breakfast. She's already taken the cream cheese out of the fridge so it's room temperature, the way Chloe likes it.

Attributing her misery to an underperforming marriage had helped her cope well enough, until a week and a half ago, when she found a tiny piece of foil wrapper in the pocket of Aiden's jeans. Less than a square inch. Garbage, to any other person who was to pick it up from the laundry room floor after turning the pants inside out for the wash. But she recognized the texture of the ribs in the packaging. And the emerald jewel tone. It looked exactly like the condoms they used years ago. Every morning since she found it, she's opened the drawer where she keeps it and places it on her palm to wonder.

There are countless other things it could be from. A granola bar. A mint from a business lunch.

But more than any proof she has, is a feeling.

She'd once heard them described as the whispers-the moments that are trying to tell you something isn't right here. The problem is that some women aren't listening to what their lives are trying to tell them. They don't hear the whispers until they're looking back with hindsight. Feeling blindsided. Desperate to see the truth for what it is.

But maybe she's just paranoid. Too much time on her hands to think.

She hears Chloe's feet hit the stairs and spreads the cream cheese carefully. The wide-open thighs come back to her. Aiden's fingers opening the woman's tight, waxed lips. How nice he'd be to her afterward. Maybe she makes him laugh. The hair rises on Blair's arms. She thinks again of how Aiden didn't ejaculate during the only night they had sex last month. Of how he's been checking his phone more than usual.

Chloe is nearly at the bottom of the staircase. She c...