cover image Small Silent Things

Small Silent Things

Robin Page. Harper Perennial, $16.99 trade paper (336) ISBN 978-0-06-287923-3

Page’s moving debut explores how tragedy forces surprising changes for a woman who feels out of place in her privileged life. When Jocelyn Morrow’s mother dies, a flood of pent-up emotions and memories of her physically and emotionally abusive childhood are released. Slowly, the dark emotions bleed into her daily life, as she feels increasingly detached from her six-year-old daughter, Lucy. Meanwhile, Jocelyn becomes attracted to her tennis instructor, Kate, and she notices feelings of sexual energy she hasn’t experienced in years. Concerned by Jocelyn’s melancholy, her husband asks her to start therapy. As she dredges up painful memories, she questions herself as a mother and frets over Lucy’s future; Lucy, like Jocelyn, is biracial, and Jocelyn fears Lucy will face many of the same challenges she did. Jocelyn also begins speaking with neighbor Simon, an architect and refugee of the Rwandan genocide who is tormented by the loss of his family. When Simon receives a letter from someone claiming to be his daughter, he must decide how to respond. As Jocelyn’s marriage slowly deteriorates, she forms a bond with Simon that helps her regain a sense of hope. Though several threads of the story feel incomplete, the climactic final scene makes for a dramatic finish. The plot is frustratingly circuitous, but Jocelyn’s electric voice and heartrending battle with depression make this a profound and pleasing character study. (Sept.)