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Speak Softly, She Can Hear

A Novel

About The Book

In this “gripping psychological thriller” (New York Post), two best friends at an exclusive Manhattan girls’ school make a pact: they will lose their virginity before graduation.

Carole is a shy, overweight scholarship student who finds herself under the spell of the charismatic, pedigreed Naomi—it’s an unlikely friendship that will set in motion a series of events with dire and far-reaching consequences.

Enter Eddie, a slick Upper East Side prep school dropout, expelled from a half-dozen private schools on the East Coast. Eddie is handsome, fatally charming, and more than willing to help the girls accomplish their goal. But something about him is not quite right—his overly familiar way with Naomi, his hair-trigger temper, the stories that just don't add up—and on one bitterly cold holiday weekend in an isolated cabin deep in the Vermont woods, a horrifying twist develops in the girls’ plan.

#1 bestselling author Wally Lamb says, “Pam Lewis is a sly and sure-footed storyteller whose literary tale of treachery, deception, and truth sits comfortably alongside Donna Tartt's The Secret History and Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley."

Reading Group Guide

Reader's Group Guide for Speak Softly, She Can Hear
1) Describe the various settings in which the story takes place. What does Vermont in particular symbolize for Carole? The story takes place during the 1960s and 1970s. How does this unique period in history figure into the story?
2) From the very beginning of their encounter, Carole defers all power to Eddie both sexually and psychologically, instantly believing his version of the events in Stowe. Why do you think she does this? Discuss Carole's personality. Are there other instances with other characters in which Carole surrenders power? Do you think of Carole as weak or strong? Why? Do you feel her personality changes by the end of the story?
3) At the end of the novel, Carole is visited by her estranged father and the theme of family relationships comes full circle. How is this theme of family explored throughout the novel? How does Carole's relationship with her parents change after the events in Stowe? What is the nature of Naomi's family life? How do the familial relationships in the novel define and shape the characters and their actions?
4) What is the nature of Naomi and Carole's friendship at the beginning of the novel? Why do you think Naomi befriended Carole? What motivates Naomi to continue seeing Eddie, even after the events in Vermont? What is your overall opinion of Naomi? Do you consider her a product of her own design or a tragic character, the victim of unfortunate circumstances?
5) What is the symbolic significance of snow throughout the novel? Use examples from both the opening chapter and the final chapters of the novel. What does the method in which Eddie and Naomi die symbolize?
6) Describe Will and Carole's relationship. Why do you think Carole decides to finally tell the truth to Will? How does he react to the story, and what does that reveal about his character? What is the significance of Will's profession as a survival expert?
7) Though Rita's character is never explored in depth, she is ever present in the novel. How do you think she came to the motel room that fateful night? Why do you think there were very few articles and no in-depth murder investigation after the body was found? Is she a sympathetic character or merely mysterious? What do Rita's presence and subsequent death symbolize to Carole?
8) Morality is a major theme in the novel. Discuss the significance of morality in Carole's situation. Do you think morality played a part in her decision to keep quiet for so many years, or was it only fear? Who are the characters in the novel that represent morality? Are there peripheral characters that have questionable morality? Discuss these characters and their situations.
9) Do you agree with Carole's decision to perpetrate the myth of the events leading to both Naomi's and Eddie's deaths? Why do you think she withholds the truth from the public at large? Do you feel Carole achieves vindication for everything that Eddie did to her? If so, how?
10) What does the title of the novel mean? Who might the "she" in the title refer to?

About The Author

Photograph by Doug Anderson

Pam Lewis lives in rural Connecticut with her husband, Rob Funk. Since 1991, she has worked as a freelance writer of business and marketing communications. She is the author of the novels Perfect Family and Speak Softly, She Can Hear and her short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker and various literary magazines.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (March 10, 2006)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780743255400

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Raves and Reviews

"Gripping . . . with a freshness that sets it apart." -- New York Post

"Pam Lewis will keep you guessing, she'll keep you up late at night, but most of all, she will bring you back to the friendships and betrayals of your past. Smart, clever, and emotionally involving. You'll never feel the same way about keeping a secret." -- Brad Meltzer, New York Times; bestselling author of The Tenth Justice and The Zero Game

"This debut psychological thriller is full of promise for author Pam Lewis, who takes various familiar genre elements and gives them some fresh twists." -- Dick Adler, Chicago Tribune

"An excellent debut." -- Karen Carlin, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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