Samantha Garner’s novel The Quiet is Loud is about a world just slightly different from our own. In the book, Freya Tanangco, who is of Norwegian and Filipino heritage, is gifted with a “paradextrous” skill: she has vivid dreams and visions that occasionally come true and sometimes predict harm about to come to other people. The novel shifts between two timelines, one in the present, and one that shows a younger version of Freya as she grows up and begins to understand the extent of her power. Her father, Brian, is a novelist whose most famous novel is a thinly veiled autobiography in which he paints his sister Judith in a very unflattering light. In both timelines, Freya navigates a strained relationship with her father, who is more than disdainful of people with paradextrous skills, calling them “vekers” a slur in the world of the novel. No one in Freya’s family knows about her skill, except for her cousin Mary, and Freya is afraid of her father’s judgement if he were to learn about what she can do. As she begins to connect with other similarly gifted individuals at a support group, Freya’s privacy is threatened and her trust is betrayed. Eventually, she must decide whether she is ready to reveal her skill to her family and risk being outed to the rest of the world.
In The Quiet is Loud, Garner renders her characters with skill and careful attention to detail. The novel is more character-driven than plot-heavy, which allows Garner to really flesh out her main character in particular. The book is steered by Freya’s first-person narration in the present-day timeline, and the reader gets a clear sense of her voice. Freya is well-rounded and her anxieties are believable and relatable; she tries to forge a life as an independent young woman while balancing family obligations, all while under the surface she struggles to better understand her paradextrous power. For Freya, predictive visions are less glamourous than they may seem—she finds that her skill is incredibly troubling and difficult to control. Through Freya, Garner examines the tension between family obligation and striking out on one’s own, as well as the larger themes of the right to privacy and the notion of social responsibility.
Another one of the strengths of the novel is Garner’s exploration of family ties, outside of the nuclear family. Equally as intriguing as Freya’s exploration of her special skill is her relationship with her cousin, Mary. Mary is also a mixed-race character, who has a strained relationship with her mother, Judith. The bond between Mary and Freya is strong and is beautifully expressed: the two are more like sisters than cousins. I found Freya and Mary’s relationship fascinating in the way it demonstrated some of the possibilities for sisterhood outside of a traditional sister-to-sister relationship. Mary supports Freya with unconditional love throughout their lives together, proving that even in this slightly augmented world where many people turn their back on the paradextrous, there are still avenues and networks for support and love.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Quiet is Loud because it asks questions about relationships; particularly about the limits of loyalty and unconditional love in a world that is really only slightly different from reality. Garner encourages the reader to think about the complexity of family relationships and the possibilities of finding family connections outside of the nuclear family unit that is rich, supportive, and caring. I look forward to reading more from Garner in the future.
Samantha Garner‘s short fiction and poetry have previously appeared in Broken Pencil, Sundog Lit, Kiss Machine, The Fiddlehead, Storychord, WhiskeyPaper and The Quarantine Review. She lives and writes in Mississauga
- Publisher : Invisible Publishing (May 4 2021)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 336 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1988784719
- ISBN-13 : 978-1988784717