Small Silent Things: A Novel (Paperback)
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A lyrical, haunting debut that explores the power of parenthood, identity, lust, and the legacy of trauma, as the lives of two neighbors are upended by ghosts from their past lives.
When the news of her mother’s death reaches Jocelyn Morrow, it stirs up memories of her traumatic childhood. She is a mother herself now, to six-year-old Lucy; living a life of privilege in Southern California with her husband Conrad; moving in a world of wealthy white women, even though she is not white; as far away from her past as she can get. Her designer clothes cover a net of scars across her back, and she hides an even deeper mark—a fundamental stain, something she believes invited her abuse. She also has a blossoming secret: she is becoming obsessed with Kate, her tennis coach.
Her neighbor Simon Bonaventure is a successful landscape architect and a Rwandan refugee. He too is haunted, by the wife and daughter who were taken from him in the genocide twenty years ago. The ghosts of those he could not save, and those who took them, are never far, and now he has received a letter—allegedly from his daughter, grown, and full of questions for a father she doesn’t know.
As Jocelyn and Simon begin a tentative friendship, they forge a bond out of their dark secret histories—a bond that may be their only hope of being pulled back from the abyss.
About the Author
Robin Page was raised in Cincinnati and has degrees from UCLA and UC Irvine’s MFA program. She lives with her husband and daughter in Los Angeles, and has powerfully mined her experience as a displaced Midwesterner, a woman of color, and a mother in these pages.
“[A] haunting debut… Page builds incredible tension in her braided narrative… Page demands we witness, with eyes open, what can be carried within a vulnerable body, and what those limits are. Human resilience is a marvel, this novel says, but a fragile one, too easily undone.”
“An accomplished debut. Page makes use of flashbacks and alternating narrators effectively, allowing readers to experience the story from the main characters’ differing perspectives. At times, it’s difficult to read because it’s emotionally raw and there’s not a tidy resolution — but life isn’t often tidy or resolved.”
— Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette
“[A] moving debut… Jocelyn’s electric voice and heartrending battle with depression make this a profound and pleasing character study.”
— Publishers Weekly
“[Page’s] touching debut explores with insight and compassion the enormous impact of past trauma on present behavior.”
“Robin Page balances the quiet exterior with her characters’ public selves and the quiet, intense rage that burns alongside the trauma that they carry. For this, the novel’s title and the pages that follow are a promise fulfilled. Page announces her debut as a confident voice with much depth both within her lines and in the pockets of space between them, breathing life into her protagonists and delivering on what may inspire many discussions on the places and people we hide to when we want to forget.”
— Morgan Jerkins, New York Times bestselling author of This Will Be My Undoing
“Most small things are close to our hearts. But our hearts are our smallest things. Sometimes our hearts stop. Then we need a book to comfort small silent things”
— Nikki Giovanni, Poet
“So many small silent things in Jocelyn Morrow’s life “have refused to end, refused to go away.” Affluence softens every aspect of her current life, but she is also surrounded by a kind of unforgiving righteousness that spawns in this bounty. At the center of this devastating novel is an affair, for Jocelyn “a luxurious lack of memory,” and then finally a friendship with a Rwandan refugee, someone who understands the long teeth of trauma. James Baldwin wrote that art was “to help one bear the fact that all safety is an illusion”...Here is art, the fact of it. Small Silent Things is a magnificent debut.”
— Michelle Latiolais, author of Widow
“In its exploration of political history and familial scars, Small Silent Things covers impressive territory, presenting the murkiness of love beneath the glossy surface of life in Southern California.”
— Chieh Chieng, author of A Long Stay in a Distant Land