A road trip from Chicago to Virginia is transformed into a complex mental journey in Pittard’s (Reunion) third novel. Mark and Maggie, a 30-something couple, are coping with the aftermath of Maggie’s mugging at gunpoint. To make matters worse, an attacker with a similar MO subsequently murdered a neighbor. Mark decides to push up the date of their annual visit to his parents’ cottage in Virginia to give Maggie—who has taken to wearing a bathrobe, zoning out and scouring the Internet for negative stories, and hiding a knife under the mattress—a much-needed break. Soon into their journey, a destructive storm forces them to find shelter in an out-of-the-way hotel. While the storm rages outside, the characters contemplate their own inner storms. Mark, a college professor, frustrated and baffled by his wife’s increasing dysfunction, considers an affair with a former research assistant, while feeling fiercely protective of his wife. Maggie, a veterinarian, stymied by her fears, longs to get back to her normal self. Chilling events ratchet up the suspense as well as magnify the couple’s strengths and weaknesses in Pittard’s memorable examination of the precarious terrain of marriage. (July)
A New York Times Book Review "Editors' Choice" An Entertainment Weekly “Seriously Scary Summer Read”A Washington Post “Best Summer Thriller”A The Millions "Most Anticipated" Book A Lit Hub "Buzz Book" A Refinery29 "Best Book of 2016 So Far" A New Yorker “Book We Loved 2016”"We continue to love thrillers and especially love this one. In Pittard’s unconventional novel, a couple on a road trip deal with raging storms and their own fraying marriage." —The New York Times Book Review “Hannah Pittard’s 'Listen to Me' is a quiet, revelatory novel that exposes the inner workings of a marriage along a harrowing road trip.”—The New Yorker"Hannah Pittard's captivating third novel, Listen to Me, focuses on a smart, attractive couple who have reached that point, not unknown in marriage, when partners fear that the person they love is driving them crazy. Pittard, having introduced these troubled lovers, sends them on a journey across America that soon places their lives in peril. You won't put this story down...Pittard is operating at a level few writers attain. [She] deserves the attention of anyone in search of today's best fiction." —The Washington Post "[Listen to Me] gripped me completely and even gave me nightmares, which is high praise in my book."—The Chicago Tribune"The book is an examination of trauma, perseverance, and trust in both yourself and the people you love; to read it is to be at once engrossed and unsettled.” —Buzzfeed “Thrilling and suspenseful, Listen to Me digs into the ways in which the person you trust the most can fast become a stranger—forcing you to question whether you knew them at all to begin with.” —Refinery29 "You won’t be able to put down this thrilling, quick read." —Real Simple “Mark and Maggie's relationship is as strained as can be, fraught after Maggie's world was shattered by a mugging at gunpoint. But when the couple goes on their annual trip, Maggie's newfound paranoia may be the thing that saves them from certain danger. Pittard writes with a unique gusto, and you'll be riveted the entire way through.” —Bustle "Winner of the Amanda Davis Award from McSweeney’s and author of the novels Reunion and The Fates Will Find Their Way, Pittard now brings us the story of a young married couple, Mark and Maggie, on a road trip gone wrong. Maggie’s recently been robbed at gun point, and by the time they stop for the night at an out-of-the-way inn (without power), the two aren’t even speaking to one another. Frederick Barthelme calls it 'a positively Hitchcockian misadventure.’" —The Millions "Listen to Me elides so many genres that it’s Houdini-like, bursting through constraints. It moves between its two characters’ inner lives as effortlessly as an Olympic swimmer strokes through water.”—Ann Beattie, The Paris Reviewblog“Listen To Me reminds us that even good marriages are hard work. And that the world can be a scary place, because we secretly want it to be, even need it to be. Pittard's story is meaningful and satisfying—even if you never find out who will see you on an empty road in the middle of the night.”—The Oregonian “Pittard's fast-moving story recalls a legion of American writers from Hawthorne to McCarthy, each chronicling existential encounters framed by the wilderness and exposing the heart of darkness, both out there in the night and within the searching self.” —The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel “Pittard writes her characters' vulnerable, inappropriate, selfish, trivial, scary thoughts with cringeworthy honesty…[she] may write about the things that no one likes talking about, but readers should listen when one of her characters brings it up.” —Philly Voice “A perfect summer read…”—Louisville Courier-Journal "Pittard's glistening new novel... opens up to show not just the depth and potential shattering points of all close relationships but also how danger—and, yes, evil—lurk at the outskirts of our lives, threatening to upend us unexpectedly...Pitch-perfect in language and ominous in mood, Pittard's narrative telescopes enormous emotion and insight into a brief, compelling read." —Library Journal, Starred Review “A road trip from Chicago to Virginia is transformed into a complex mental journey in Pittard’s (Reunion) third novel... Chilling events ratchet up the suspense as well as magnify the couple’s strengths and weaknesses in Pittard’s memorable examination of the precarious terrain of marriage.” —Publishers Weekly "Pittard skillfully alternates between the points of view of Mark and Maggie, who often tell readers much more than they’ve told one another. Perfect for those who like to observe characters’ minds and relationships from the backseat." —Booklist “The setup of Pittard's third novel is a simple and effective one: a cross-country journey in which an already-frayed marriage is pushed to its limit, even as the landscape through which the characters travel turns increasingly ominous… there's plenty of moodiness and societal commentary to be found in Pittard's taut novel.” —Kirkus"It's a rare novel that expertly portrays a totally normal marriage, but Listen to Me also reminds readers that it's the normal patterns of a long-term relationship that allow it to survive." —Shelf Awareness“Hannah Pittard's got the goods. There's no doubt about it. Listen to Me has a way of making you uneasy from the get go. Maybe it’s the approaching storm, the dark night, all the terrible things that might be hiding around the corner. Or maybe it’s just how much the main characters, with all of their faults and scars and frustrated desires, remind us of ourselves. Regardless, this is a psychologically complex, addictive, and quick moving read. I didn't want it to end!”—M.O. Walsh, author of New York Times bestselling novel My Sunshine Away“Listen to Me is the sort of novel you want to read in one sitting: suspenseful, unsettling, and beautifully written. Hannah Pittard goes into one couple’s dark night of the soul with surprising charm and wit, but also with a fierce and intelligent honesty.” —Dean Bakopoulos, author of Summerlong “In Listen to Me, Hannah Pittard takes the reader on a married couple’s chilling road trip. The dangers and mishaps of the physical journey provide enormous suspense but still greater are all the fears each houses within. Pittard is a gifted writer with an excellent eye for the intricate details that shape a relationship.”—Jill McCorkle, author of Life After Life “An unflinching look at the tightrope walk of marriage, Hannah Pittard’s Listen to Me holds a mirror up to our own twisted and hopeful idiosyncrasies. Pittard is an expert guide to the dark places of the soul, revealing how the smallest shift of balance in our fragile psyches can set off a chain of mini-detonations. But like the rain that accompanies this journey across America’s heartland, Pittard’s close empathy is a clarifying wash. This is the best kind of road trip novel: one where the tension drowns out the radio.”—Katy Simpson Smith, author of The Story of Land and Sea “Hannah Pittard’s Listen to Me is a dazzling new novel with a perfectly-drawn forty-something couple on a positively Hitchcockian misadventure. As the suspense grows, their world turns darker and more menacing, threatened by violent weather and bizarre people, like the cowboy who, out of nowhere, remarks on Maggie’s appearance—or does he? By then you know you’re in for the duration, a ride into the heart of darkness, West Virginia style, where, after a night in hell and a heartbreakingly high price, they find what they’re looking for—a way out, a second chance.”—Frederick Barthelme, author of There Must Be Some Mistake and Waveland “In the shadows of meticulously-planned domestic bliss, far from the pages of social media, young couples are discovering how little they know the ones they love. The story of Maggie and Mark, their fears, and their misconceptions, is told with propulsive clarity, elegance, and wit. Listen to Me captures a cultural moment with stunning prescience, and Hannah Pittard’s prose reads like a memory in waiting.”—Michael Pitre, author of Fives and Twenty-Fives “Hannah Pittard's Listen to Me is a strange and wonderful book about the mysteries of coupledom and the long surreal highways of America. It's written in a lean and elegant prose and I read these pages in one long and enthralled sitting."—Darcey Steinke, author of Suicide Blonde and Sister Golden Hair
The story of a fraught road trip undertaken by a couple whose marriage is under stress, Pittard's glistening new novel (after Reunion) only seems to be in miniature. In fact, it opens up to show not just the depth and potential shattering points of all close relationships but also how danger—and, yes, evil—lurk at the outskirts of our lives, threatening to upend us unexpectedly. College professor Mark and his wife, Maggie, a veterinarian, are traveling from Chicago to his family's East Coast home because Mark senses they need a break; after a mugging, Maggie has become brooding and suspicious, not the woman Mark married. They leave late, with Maggie intent on giving their dog, Gerome, a good walk beforehand, and they're mostly bickering or silent as evening and tornado-grade storms approach. As Mark wrestles with thoughts of a former student and Maggie zigzags between tenderness and paranoia, a blackout descends, and they go off the beaten path to seek a place to stay. At a dark hotel, they find a bed and some real closeness, but tragedy erupts in a moment, leaving their future tentative if tentatively hopeful. VERDICT Pitch-perfect in language and ominous in mood, Pittard's narrative telescopes enormous emotion and insight into a brief, compelling read. [See Prepub Alert, 1/11/16.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
A husband and wife deal with their growing estrangement and the aftereffects of violence as they make an increasingly hazardous road trip. The setup of Pittard's third novel is a simple and effective one: a cross-country journey in which an already-frayed marriage is pushed to its limit, even as the landscape through which the characters travel turns increasingly ominous. Mark and Maggie are traveling east from Chicago to visit family along with their dog, Gerome. Maggie is still struggling with the psychological fallout of a mugging, and the affinity the two once felt has withered, making the minor quarrels of a long drive take on added significance. The fact that they're traveling through an area suffering from a power outage ratchets up the tension further. The novel is at its strongest when Pittard evokes the instability that can arise on the margins of catastrophic events: the effects of the outage on familiar roadside sights lends a memorable sense of disquiet to the proceedings. An ambiguous encounter between Maggie and a stranger at a rest stop is equally haunting: has she encountered a sociopath in transit, or have the aftereffects of trauma altered her perception of everyday situations? For all that Pittard effectively builds tension throughout the book, its conclusion does feel somewhat rushed, as a random interaction with a minor character escalates quickly, as opposed to a more organic resolution. Pittard does leave some ambiguity with the hopeful note with which she closes, and Mark's musings on technology and community provide an interesting counterpoint to the proceedings. Though its conclusion feels abrupt, there's plenty of moodiness and societal commentary to be found in Pittard's taut novel.