The Quiet Is Loud
Samantha Garner, 320 pgs, Invisible Publishing, invisiblepublishing.com, $23.95
The gap between speech and silence can be a source of protection, especially when fitting in is the difference between life and death. This is the case for Freya Tanangco, who has known she has prophetic psychic abilities ever since she dreamed of her mother’s death before it occurred.
Samantha Garner’s refreshingly original debut novel, The Quiet Is Loud, explores the grey areas between what we say and what we conceal and the stakes of keeping one’s identity hidden. Garner’s world is much like our own but for the presence of psychically skilled “paradextrous” people, derogatorily called “vekers” by those who fear and persecute them. The narrative follows Freya as she meets others like her through STEP, or Support Tools Empowering the Paradextrous, a support group for those with extraordinary abilities. There she comes to know Cassandra, who studies the paradextrous, Javi, who can sense when others possess a skill, and Shawn, an activist who believes paradextrous people should be open about their abilities and demand equal treatment and recognition.
As the characters’ names make clear, the novel weaves a rich symbolic tapestry of seemingly disparate traditions including Norse and Filipino mythology and tarot card archetypes. This approach creates a welcome exploration of difference and identity anchored in allegory and metaphor rather than literal politics. Questions of coming out and who has the right to share others’ stories are explored through conflicts between characters, as when Shawn wants to out Freya for political gain while she insists that, “some people would rather not draw attention to themselves.”
Garner’s speculative narrative flashes back and forth between Freya’s 90s childhood and her 2015 present, embedding these questions in a complex family history while maintaining a day-in-the-life narrative feel. It’s a fearlessly unique book, and I look forward to whatever this exciting new author chooses to write next.