SPEAK SOFTLY, SHE CAN HEAR

Sixteen-year-old Carole is a recent transfer to Spence, an exclusive prep school in New York City. Intelligent, kind-hearted, and witty, but overweight and socially awkward, Carole has only one real friend, the thin, brassy, emotionally troubled Naomi. With the sexual revolution of the 1960s swinging into high gear, Naomi persuades Carole that the time has come to “go all the way.” The man Naomi chooses to initiate them is Eddie, a handsome ne’er-do-well in his twenties whose proudest achievement is having been kicked out of several of the east coast’s most prominent prep schools. Carole and Naomi tell their parents that they are going on a ski trip, but actually plan to spend their winter break with Eddie in a motel room in Vermont.

Nothing goes as planned from the very start. Expecting to be alone with Eddie, Carole is shocked when they are joined by a sexually adventurous stranger. With Carole’s judgment and perceptions clouded by alcohol, she reluctantly engages in a ménage à trois, at the end of which a woman lies dead. Eddie orders the stunned Carole to help him and Naomi bury the woman in the snowy woods behind the motel. Alternately manipulative and bullying, he also convinces the naïve schoolgirl that she alone is responsible for the woman’s death.

Returning home, Carole constructs an elaborate web of deceit to cover up her involvement in the crime, flirts with suicide and, after some convincing from Naomi, who herself has made an art of slippery half-truths, comes to believe that lies are what set you free. One of her few comforts is her unlikely friendship with Rachel, a pregnant girl living at a nearby home for unwed mothers. Come fall, Carole enters Vassar as planned, but is unable to cope emotionally or academically. Shedding her true identity, she flees, at first to a tiny New York apartment, and then to Rachel’s new home in San Francisco at the height of the hippie and drug culture. But Carole’s past haunts her there, too, and soon she moves to rural Vermont, where she attempts once again to rebuild her life.

By 1975, ten years after the night that changed her destiny, she is the successful owner of a small bar and restaurant, with a good-looking and emotionally generous boyfriend, Will. Now thin and almost unrecognizable to former acquaintances, she has been out of touch with her family for almost a decade. Although beautiful and outwardly confident, Carole is tormented by the secret she shares with Eddie and Naomi. Her whole life is still about hiding and running and close calls.

The unexpected reappearance of Naomi and Eddie threatens to explode Carole’s carefully constructed world of illusion. Now a couple, they move to Carole’s town just as details of the long-ago death start to re-emerge. Driven to find out the truth at last, Carole begins her own investigation of the crime. A frigid, nighttime cross-country ski trip raises tensions to an almost unbearable level, as Rachel begins to piece the story together and Will starts to question Carole’s integrity. In the novel’s gripping climax, Carole travels alone to Naomi and Eddie’s farmhouse, where a harrowing confrontation in the snow and ice, a desperate rescue attempt, and sudden death finally lead to the truth and release Carole from her mental and emotional prison.

Equal parts psychological thriller and coming-of-age novel, this cautionary tale reveals how a life can be changed forever by a single deadly mistake. A skillfully crafted murder mystery, it vividly evokes the texture of a colorful and tumultuous era in recent American history. It is above all a compelling portrait of a young woman who must overcome a cruel turn of fate to find within herself the truth that there can be no love when people are divided by a secret.


Praise for Speak Softly, She Can Hear

“The very first chapter of Speak Softly, She Can Hear fires an electric charge that sent me racing through this sexy and suspenseful psychological thriller. Pam Lewis is a sly and sure-footed storyteller whose literary tale of treachery, deception, and truth sits comfortably alongside Donna Tartt's The Secret History and Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley.”

--Wally Lamb, New York Times bestselling author of author of She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True

"Pam Lewis will keep you guessing, she'll keep you up late at night, but most of all, she will bring you back to the friendships and betrayals of your past. Smart, clever, and emotionally involving. You'll never feel the same way about keeping a secret."

--Brad Meltzer, New York Times bestselling author of The Tenth Justice and The Zero Game

"Gripping, . . . with a freshness that sets it apart from the thriller genre. There is a queasy darkness to the novel that the reader will savor. Once begun, it's a hard book to let go of, and the writer's skill prompts rereading of passages for their craft alone."

--Daniel Sams, New York Post

“.. .the perfect recommendation for thriller fans-so many exciting twists and turns and one of the best written villains I've read in a long time. I could not put it down.”

--Jan Warner-Poole, Storyteller Books, Battle Ground, WA

"This psychological thriller is an excellent debut for first-time novelist Lewis. Her settings are vibrant, from the hippie culture in San Francisco to rural small-town life in Vermont. Her descriptions, especially of angst-ridden teen years and those friendships that pull us through them, are dead on. In subtle strokes, she paints a menacing darkness around Carole, who, no matter how far she runs, can't seem to escape the threat lurking in the shadows."

--Karen Carlin, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"WOW! . . . I simply couldn't stop reading Speak Softly, She Can Hear-- frightening yet enthralling, it kept me awake all night. Eddie, the manipulative villain, is every parent's nightmare. As he drew the girls deeper into his power I was both horrified and fascinated. The book is being enthusiastically passed from staff member to staff member and I have a feeling that all 65 of us will be putting it into our favorite customers' hands."

--Elaine Petrocelli, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA

"Pam Lewis' novel vividly captures the hippie era of free love, pot and rock 'n' roll, developing an unsettling and mesmerizing psychological thriller."

--Ann Hellmuth, The Orlando Sentinel

"This debut psychological thriller is full of promise for author Pam Lewis, who takes various familiar genre elements and gives them some fresh twists."

--Chicago Tribune

"[A] chillingly elegant first novel."

--Joanne Sasvari, The Calgary Herald

"Well-written and gripping. . . Readers will stay up late to see whether beleaguered, tortured Carole can free herself from the despicable Eddie."

--Publishers Weekly

“I loved Speak Softly, She Can Hear. It’s a great read--kept me going from beginning to end. I'm going to add this to my ‘must read’ list.”

--Paul Pessolano, Borders Books & Music, Snellville, GA

"Inventively plotted. . . . Nicely written first effort . . . "

--Kirkus Reviews

“I started Speak Softly on Christmas and read it most of the day as I traveled by plane to visit family. Once there, I spent most of the next day finishing it--I was compelled by the story and the characters. A quick, interesting, well-crafted read.”

--Darla Roy, Read All About It Bookstore, Boerne, Texas

"Lewis, in her debut novel, tells an engrossing tale of an unlikely friendship, the burden of keeping secrets, and the insidiousness of lies."

--Booklist

“Being a huge fan of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, I am always wary when someone makes a comparison to it. This time I must say I was not disappointed. This well-crafted tale of friendships, secrets, and lies will have you compulsively turning the pages in a cautious yet irresistible race to discover the fate of the novel's central character. In her debut novel, Ms. Lewis has turned out an excellent literary thriller. Bravo!”

--Stephen Cropper, Davis-Kidd Booksellers, Memphis, TN