A small, pleasant town can turn ugly when people's private conversations become news for the public.
Marlo had been names the most family friendly city in the U.S. Damien Underwood works for the Marlo Sentinel, the newspaper for the small city. He believes in the power of words, writes an opinion piece three times weekly and creates new crossword puzzles. He loves his job and his home town. His wife, Kay, is a part time real estate agent in Marlo. Their daughter Jenna is a cheerleader at the high school. Their younger son Hunter is a computer geek. Damien's best friend is Frank, a divorced Marlo cop.
There's a new website just for Marlo, Listen To Us. Whoever is behind the website is listening in on private conversations in people's homes in Marlo and posting them verbatim without content on the web. Unfortunately, many of these conversations are about other members of Marlo.
Damien wants to switch to investigative reporting. Now Marlo has something that's worth investigating. He sees how quickly the trust in the town falls apart. People learn things about their friends' opinions and thoughts - usually bad or mean. Friendships fall apart.
At home, Jenna has become sullen and withdrawn. Neither Damien or Kay seem to be able to get her to talk. She rolls her eyes and says they don't understand. Hunter is sneaking something on his computer. When Damien tries to talk to him, Hunter clams up. Pornography? Probably.
Then a high school girl disappears. A man gets shot. Marlo is no longer the Best City to Raise a Child.
Rene Gutteridge's Listen is a moving, cautionary tale. People say things when they believe they're alone they would never say in company. Most people wear a public facade. Damien and Kay are working hard to be good parents while both are busy with careers as well. Jenna and Hunter face the issues most American teenagers face.
It's easy to get caught up in this short novel. No one wants their thoughts revealed, especially in a town where supposedly everyone gets along. Gutteridge builds the story well, starting with minor incidents that build until the town is torn apart.
Do you want to know the power of words? Read Listen.
These reviews are personal opinions only and in no way reflect other readers' opinions of the books discussed.
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