by Rene Gutteridge
eBook: 350 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Released: January 25th 2010
Source: Free ebook promotion.
Book Description from Amazon:
Nothing ever happens in the small town of Marlo . . . until the residents begin seeing their private conversations posted online for everyone to read. Then it's neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend, as paranoia and violence escalate. The police scramble to identify the person responsible for the posts and pull the plug on the Website before it destroys the town. But what responsibility do the people of the town have for the words they say when they think no one is listening? Life and death are in the power of the tongue.
Listen is a Christian thriller (though the deadly disease is cruel words and the effects are confined to one town). I decided to call this a thriller because it started with a teen girl committing suicide solely because she overheard some friends criticizing her clothing and hair, and then it moved on to a cat being killed by hanging outside a pastor's house (and who did this and why is never explained), and it kept on going from one extremely violent reaction to another. For some reason, most people in this town reacted with criminal behavior when they read a posted conversation that might possibly be about them and they weren't held back by not knowing for sure who said the words.
In thrillers, it's more common for characters to act "larger than life" without their motives really being explored. That was true with this story, though once or twice we got a glimmer of why the characters acted they way they did. This works alright for action stories, but I got the feeling that the author was trying to impress on the readers the danger of hurtful words, even those spoken in private. Yet this "larger than life" style of writing left me feeling like people wouldn't really act that way, which took away from the intended impact.
This was even more so because many of the characters didn't seem very realistic. For example, the pastor is perfect--no matter what wrong was done to him, he acted lovingly and quoted Scripture about the danger of words. And I wasn't comfortable with how the main characters' justified one man stalking his ex-wife as proof of his great love for her and she should stop complaining about such a great guy.
The story did have plenty of action with suspense created from relationship tensions and physical danger. I was pleased that the author took the time to get the jail scenes correct, and she also did a god job of describing the setting in a way that was easy to visualize.
Beyond the repeated Scripture quotes about taming the tongue, you wouldn't know this was a Christian novel until near the end. Then a fellow who was a nominal Christian at best suddenly started thinking profound theological thoughts. His wife's later response to a "let's pray" was a more realistic and interesting "Why would God listen to me? or any of us? Look what this town has become."
There was a minor amount of "he cussed" style language and a very minor amount of explicit bad language. There were no sex scenes (though affairs were referred to).
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.
Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.