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2019 TOB Shortlist Books > Speak No Evil

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Play-in round.


message 2: by Caroline (new)

Caroline   | 150 comments I keep getting caught up in the characters referring to Washington DC as 'Washington' rather than 'D.C.' because I don't know anybody who lives there who does that? But the author went to high school there, so maybe there's a private school culture thing I'm not aware of. (I read another book a while ago set at an elite DC prep school that had what seemed like local errors to me but it turned out the author also went to HS there so what do I know?)


message 3: by Caroline (new)

Caroline   | 150 comments I didn't mean the earlier comment to be on this discussion board!

But anyway, i read in one review that this was possibly supposed to be a larger novel with a lot of different viewpoints, and I felt like I could see the remains of that. The writing is very good but the structure was frustrating (I particularly felt like Meredith's PoV section was missing VITAL information that would help me evaluate the events of the novel). It just seemed like an incomplete story.


message 4: by Rachelnyc (new)

Rachelnyc | 61 comments I also read about how this novel is basically the remnants of a more ambitious project the author originally intended to write.

Caroline, I understand what you are saying and I agree it felt like something was missing but I still enjoyed this one. The writing was wonderful and Niru's story was very engaging. I like ambiguity in novels but more was definitely needed to make this story feel complete.


message 5: by Caroline (new)

Caroline   | 150 comments There are just really weird POV choices -- even though we get a whole section from Meredith's point of view, it's never clear what she actually did to or said about Niru/ how culpable she was.


message 6: by Lauren (last edited Jan 09, 2019 10:55AM) (new)

Lauren Oertel | 876 comments I couldn't sleep this morning and finished listening to this book around 5am. Wow, what a heartbreaker. (view spoiler)

I loved the book, but if it had also included the perspectives of the parents, etc. it would have been even more amazing. I don't know if I could handle that much more crying though. ;)

My interpretation was that Meredith did not speak the truth about Niru before, (view spoiler)

So far this is my favorite from what I've read of the short list so far (Milkman, The Dictionary of Animal Languages, and The Italian Teacher).


message 7: by jess (new)

jess (skirtmuseum) | 146 comments I thought this book was ambitious, and I can see how it may have been a longer bigger project that got trimmed down to rush to publication. I felt like it was so messy to switch POV that far into the book without any warning or preparation. It seemed like a lot of ground to cover to mix an immigrant family story, a gay coming of age story, and gay conversion / religious therapy with several other large contemporary social issues. I wish any of those topics could have been interrogated more deeply, but it was a short book covering a lot of ground.


message 8: by Dianah (new)

Dianah (fig2) | 255 comments Lauren wrote: "I couldn't sleep this morning and finished listening to this book around 5am. Wow, what a heartbreaker. [spoilers removed]

I loved the book, but if it had also included the perspectives of the par..."


I feel exactly the same way, Lauren!


message 9: by Ehrrin (new)

Ehrrin | 114 comments ***there are SPOILERS below, but I am having trouble making the tag work on this chromebook...***

I was also really jarred by the switch in narrator--it made me feel dread, disappointment, taken off guard, etc. But I thought it was an incredibly effective way to seriously interrupt the course of the story, the course of this life/these lives, and the sudden loss of Niru. I felt that loss in an utterly unexpected way. I thought it was brilliant.

I felt like the point of this story was that the reader gets so invested in Niru's life, his experience in coming of age and coming out, navigating two different cultures and their expectations, and then HOLY SHIT EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED. This beautiful boy that we are now very invested in is just gone. His story and all its complexity is stopped, and he is reduced to a news story that is being used to stoke the emotion of the narrative on both 'sides,' and everything he cared about and we cared about is just done. It's unfair and it fucking sucks and that is what happens in our country--that black men, especially in relation to white women, are disposable. Even if they are upper class, privileged, have promise, etc.

I really appreciated seeing Meredith's experience afterward, and I thought that was a great way to show the ripple effects of police violence toward Black citizens, and how everyone loses some of their humanity when this happens. I also think that she did NOT speak out at all during the aftermath, and that is why Niru's dad tells her to speak at the end.

This book blew me away, and I am sad that it's a play-in. I haven't read the other two play-in books yet, but I am having a hard time imagining that I could be swayed from Speak No Evil as the clear shoo-in.

(and now I'm having Stephen Florida flashbacks...)


message 10: by Lauren (last edited Jan 24, 2019 02:56PM) (new)

Lauren Oertel | 876 comments Ehrrin wrote: "***there are SPOILERS below, but I am having trouble making the tag work on this chromebook...***

I was also really jarred by the switch in narrator--it made me feel dread, disappointment, taken o..."


Yes, I definitely agree with your statements here. Thank you for sharing.
(view spoiler)


message 11: by Dianah (new)

Dianah (fig2) | 255 comments Lauren wrote: "Ehrrin wrote: "***there are SPOILERS below, but I am having trouble making the tag work on this chromebook...***

I was also really jarred by the switch in narrator--it made me feel dread, disappoi..."


Yes! This! That's exactly how I felt about this book. My city has a long history of racial profiling and killing innocent black people. This book felt absolutely true for me.


message 12: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Oertel | 876 comments Dianah wrote: "Lauren wrote: "Ehrrin wrote: "***there are SPOILERS below, but I am having trouble making the tag work on this chromebook...***

I was also really jarred by the switch in narrator--it made me feel ..."


Yes, I live in Austin, TX (in a fairly nice and quiet suburban neighborhood). In the past two years there have been two young men of color who were killed by police in my neighborhood because they were having a mental health crisis. One of them was naked and unarmed. RIP David Joseph :(

I thought about bringing up this book with my best friend over lunch today - a black man who also lives in my neighborhood (and there were two white cops in the restaurant with us, so that made me uncomfortable), but he's probably tired of how much I talk about racism, haha. This subject is probably more for us white women to figure out among ourselves, although I am interested in his thoughts on the risks of spending time with his white female friends.


message 13: by Elizabeth (last edited Jan 28, 2019 07:16AM) (new)

Elizabeth Arnold | 818 comments I'm about 20% through, and came on here to look for reasons to keep going. So far, I'm not loving it. The writing is just so-so, it just doesn't sing. I like Niru, but he seems like a character in every other coming out book I've read, so far not very multifaceted, and his father is a pure stereotype of a religious homophobe. (It was the scene where he was attacking Niru that first turned me off...It seemed like something a high schooler could have written.)

Reading comments, it seems like I should keep pressing on, it's short enough, and I do think the story is interesting and important, but I'm not really a fan of the writing.


message 14: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 641 comments You should keep going.


message 15: by Drew (new)

Drew (drewlynn) | 421 comments Caroline wrote: "I keep getting caught up in the characters referring to Washington DC as 'Washington' rather than 'D.C.' because I don't know anybody who lives there who does that? But the author went to high scho..."

Yes, I know what you mean about that. Also, those "Valkyries" in Union Station are actually Roman centurions. :)


message 16: by Michele (new)

Michele Fredrickson (micheleannef) | 1 comments Keep going Elizabeth...
This novel turned out to be one of my favorites this year!


message 17: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Arnold | 818 comments I took a short break, and went back to this last night...I'm at around 50% and I think I'm done. It's just doing nothing for me, nothing seems even remotely new about it, Niro and Meredith and Niru's father are two-dimensional, and although there are a few quotable phrases, most of the writing seems clunky and cliche-ridden to me.

(Meanwhile, this reminded me that I never finished Americahah..,It was such a long book and I got distracted by something shiny. But it's exactly what I'm in the mood for at this point, so nuanced and complex (in a way this novel isn't), playing with its themes in a new way. So I'm going to sink back into it now.)

I feel almost guilty for not seeing what others have seen in Speak No Evil. I love (and write) emotion-driven fiction, but this just feels to me like teenage free-writing. Scribbling across the page, letting emotions take over the story without putting the needed breaths and breaks and discipline around that spouting, sprawling narration and dialogue.


message 18: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Oertel | 876 comments Elizabeth Arnold wrote: "I took a short break, and went back to this last night...I'm at around 50% and I think I'm done. It's just doing nothing for me, nothing seems even remotely new about it, Niro and Meredith and Niru..."

No worries; there are plenty of books that others have loved that didn't quite connect for me. No judgement here - feel free to move on to the next one. :)


Bryn (Plus Others) (brynplusplus) | 94 comments I'm with you, Elizabeth -- I tried this one over the summer and could not get anywhere with it. I am glad it pleases other people but I was very happy not to finish it.


message 20: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Greene (dakimel) | 236 comments I'm also with you, Elizabeth. I finished it, but the two-dimensional characters and the 'hey here's an issue, let's incorporate it!' feel didn't work for me.

(But definitely finish Americanah, it's gorgeous)


message 21: by Heather (new)

Heather (hlynhart) | 308 comments I really, really enjoyed 75% of the book, but I felt like the "twist" was far-fetched and shoved in one more issue in a book that did not need it. I also hated that the focus pivoted to Meredith. I felt like she was a truly despicable character.


message 22: by Ellen (new)

Ellen H | 764 comments Elizabeth Arnold wrote: "I'm about 20% through, and came on here to look for reasons to keep going. So far, I'm not loving it. The writing is just so-so, it just doesn't sing. I like Niru, but he seems like a character in ..."

This is exactly how I felt about the book. It seemed to pull out every cliche in the canon.


message 23: by Ellen (new)

Ellen H | 764 comments Melanie wrote: "I'm also with you, Elizabeth. I finished it, but the two-dimensional characters and the 'hey here's an issue, let's incorporate it!' feel didn't work for me.



And ditto for this.


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