Listen to Me

by Hannah Pittard

A modern gothic about a marriage and road trip gone hauntingly awry by acclaimed writer Hannah Pittard—"If she's not on your radar yet, she should be." (Buzzfeed)

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN-13/ EAN: 9780544714441
  • ISBN-10: 054471444X
  • Pages: 208
  • Publication Date: 07/05/2016
  • Carton Quantity: 12

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About the Book
About the Author
  • About the Book
    A modern gothic about a marriage and road trip gone hauntingly awry 


    Mark and Maggie's annual drive east to visit family has gotten off to a rocky start. By the time they're on the road, it's late, a storm is brewing, and they are no longer speaking to one another. Adding to the stress, Maggie — recently mugged at gunpoint — is lately not herself, and Mark is at a loss about what to make of the stranger he calls his wife. When they are forced to stop for the night at a remote inn, completely without power, Maggie's paranoia reaches an all-time and terrifying high. But when Mark finds himself threatened in a dark parking lot, it’s Maggie who takes control.

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  • About the Author
  • Excerpts
    Listen to me and I will speak: but first swear, by word 

    and hand, that you will keep me safe with all your heart. 

    —Homer, The Iliad 



    auto | 


             n. a motor car. 

    ORIGIN late 19th cent.: abbreviation of AUTOMOBILE. 


    auto- | 

             comb. form 

             self: autoanalysis 

    one’s own: autobiography 

    by one’s self: automatic 

    by itself: automaton 

    ORIGIN from Greek: autos ‘self.’ 







    They were on the road later than they intended. They’d wanted to make Indianapolis by noon, but they overslept. Mark offered to walk the dog while Maggie packed up the car. He’d wanted her to pack up the car the night before, but Maggie said it was nuts to leave a car full of luggage on a side street in Chicago. 

         “Every time,” she’d said. “We go through this every time.” 

         “You worry too much,” he said. 

         “Maybe you don’t worry enough.” 

         It was dark by the time they’d had this argument and late, which meant Maggie had already won. 

         And so, in the morning, it was Mark — as promised — who took the dog out so that Maggie could arrange the car. But downstairs, in the private entrance to their apartment — private entrance! It had taken forever, but three years ago they’d finally found the perfect apartment with its own perfectly private entrance, which they didn’t have to share with a single other person, a fact that, to this day, continued to bring Maggie sharp, if fleeting, pleasure — was the week’s recycling, just sitting there at the bottom of the stairs. Mark swore he’d taken it out. 

         Clearly, he hadn’t. 

         She put down the luggage and was about to pick up the bin to do the job herself when she saw it: a pink-gold length of foil peeking up from beneath a newspaper. She pushed the paper aside. 

         Her heart sank — exactly what she thought: the foil was attached to an empty bottle of champagne. Her bottle of champagne. Hers and Mark’s, from their last anniversary. She’d been saving it. For what, she didn’t know. But she’d liked looking at it every now and then where she’d stashed it above the refrigerator next to the cookbooks. True, it had been a while since she’d taken any real note of the thing. Even so. It made her sad to think he’d thrown it out without ceremony, which was an overly sentimental concern — did an empty bottle truly merit ceremony? — but what was she going to do? Suddenly become a different person? 

         According to the Enneagram, which she’d taken on the recommendation of her therapist — former therapist, Maggie had stopped seeing her three weeks ago — everyone emerged from childhood with a basic personality type. Maggie’s was Loyalist. Think: committed, hard-working, reliable. Also according to the Enneagram (she’d done some recent reading on her own), people didn’t change from their basic type. Instead, throughout their lives, they vacillate between nine different levels within their type, the healthiest being a One. 

         Lately, Maggie was about an Eight. Think: paranoia, hysteria, irrational behavior. Her goal, by the end of the summer, was to be back at her usual Three or Four. There wasn’t an overnight solution. 

         She picked up the bottle. Even empty, its weight was significant. Mark had splurged because they could. Because life was good and on what else were they going to spend their money? “There are no luggage racks on hearses,” they sometimes said to one another. “Spend it if you’ve got it.” Mostly they were joking — they never spent beyond their means. But it was only just the two of them. They had no children’s educations to consider, and so why not enjoy an extravagance every once in a while? 

         She tore off a sliver of the pink foil — the tiniest of keepsakes! — then slipped it into her back pocket. Perhaps Mark was testing her, measuring her steadiness by relieving her of an ultimately trivial trinket. Yet he’d been so patient these last nine months, so generous with his affection — kissing her shoulder before clearing the table, squeezing her hand before falling asleep. Sure, they’d quarreled about the luggage and maybe the last three weeks had been more strained than usual, but quarrels, as Maggie and her former therapist had discussed, were the latticework of relationships. They were the branches — interlacing the pattern, strengthening the structure — that sheltered them and kept them together. 

         She put the bottle back in the bin, right at the very top. She didn’t need to say a thing about it. She would pass his test with flying colors. 

         Mark and Gerome were crossing the street when she emerged from the front door. 

         “What are you doing?” said Mark. 

         “The recycling,” she said. She held up the bin. “You didn’t take it out.” 

         She watched his eyes; they didn’t acknowledge the bottle. 

         “Gerome didn’t do anything,” Mark said. 

         Maggie looked down at Gerome, who was looking up at her and wagging his tail. He sneezed. 

         “What do you mean?” she said. 

         “He didn’t go.” 

         “He always goes.” 

         Gerome was still wagging his tail. 

         “You’re driving him crazy with the recycling.” Mark held out his hands to take it. 

         “You don’t do it right,” she said. 

         “If I chuck it all at once or put it in piece by piece doesn’t matter. It all goes to the same place, whether it’s broken or not.” 

         Maggie shrugged. He was right. She knew he was right. She wasn’t an idiot, but there was something so gloomy about Mark carelessly hurling it all away. Just as there was something equally gloomy about watching the homeless man who walked their alley take off his gloves one finger at a time before searching the recycling for refundable bottles. It was silly to think their bottles and cans contributed anything significant to the man’s well-being, but she couldn’t help it. The thought of him fingering broken bits of glass made her heart ache. Of course, she hadn’t actually seen anyone going through the trash since autumn, as she hadn’t taken out the recycling since her mugging,...

  • Reviews
    New York Times Book Review "Editors' Choice"? 

    An Entertainment Weekly “Seriously Scary Summer Read” 

    A Washington Post “Best Summer Thriller” 

    A The Millions "Most Anticipated" Book 

    A Lit Hub "Buzz Book" 

    A Refinery29 "Best Book of 2016 So Far" 

    A New Yorker “Book We Loved 2016” 


    "We continue to love thrillers and especially love this one. In Pittard’s unconventional novel, a couple on a road trip deal with raging storms and their own fraying marriage." —The New York Times Book Review 


    “Hannah Pittard’s 'Listen to Me' is a quiet, revelatory novel that exposes the inner workings of a marriage along a harrowing road trip.”—The New Yorker 



    "Hannah Pittard's captivating third novel, Listen to Me, focuses on a smart, attractive couple who have reached that point, not unknown in marriage, when partners fear that the person they love is driving them crazy. Pittard, having introduced these troubled lovers, sends them on a journey across America that soon places their lives in peril. You won't put this story down...Pittard is operating at a level few writers attain. [She] deserves the attention of anyone in search of today's best fiction." —The Washington Post 


    "[Listen to Me] gripped me completely and even gave me nightmares, which is high praise in my book."—The Chicago Tribune 


    "The book is an examination of trauma, perseverance, and trust in both yourself and the people you love; to read it is to be at once engrossed and unsettled.” Buzzfeed 


    “Thrilling and suspenseful, Listen to Me digs into the ways in which the person you trust the most can fast become a stranger—forcing you to question whether you knew them at all to begin with.” Refinery29 


    "You won’t be able to put down this thrilling, quick read." —Real Simple 


    “Mark and Maggie's relationship is as strained as can be, fraught after Maggie's world was shattered by a mugging at gunpoint. But when the couple goes on their annual trip, Maggie's newfound paranoia may be the thing that saves them from certain danger. Pittard writes with a unique gusto, and you'll be riveted the entire way through.” Bustle 


    "Winner of the Amanda Davis Award from McSweeney’s and author of the novels Reunion and The Fates Will Find Their Way, Pittard now brings us the story of a young married couple, Mark and Maggie, on a road trip gone wrong. Maggie’s recently been robbed at gun point, and by the time they stop for the night at an out-of-the-way inn (without power), the two aren’t even speaking to one another. Frederick Barthelme calls it 'a positively Hitchcockian misadventure.’" —The Millions 


    "Listen to Me elides so many genres that it’s Houdini-like, bursting through constraints. It moves between its two characters’ inner lives as effortlessly as an Olympic swimmer strokes through water.”—Ann Beattie, The Paris Reviewblog 


    Listen To Me reminds us that even good marriages are hard work. And that the world can be a scary place, because we secretly want it to be, even need it to be. Pittard's story is meaningful and satisfying—even if you never find out who will see you on an empty road in the middle of the night.”—The Oregonian 


    “Pittard's fast-moving story recalls a legion of American writers from Hawthorne to McCarthy, each chronicling existential encounters framed by the wilderness and exposing the heart of darkness, both out there in the night and within the searching self.” —The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 


    “Pittard writes her characters' vulnerable, inappropriate, selfish, trivial, scary thoughts with cringeworthy honesty…[she] may write about the things that no one likes talking about, but readers should listen when one of her characters brings it up.” —Philly Voice 


    “A perfect summer read…”—Louisville Courier-Journal 


    "Pittard's glistening new novel... opens up to show not just the depth and potential shattering points of all close relationships but also how danger—and, yes, evil—lurk at the outskirts of our lives, threatening to upend us unexpectedly...Pitch-perfect in language and ominous in mood, Pittard's narrative telescopes enormous emotion and insight into a brief, compelling read." —Library Journal, Starred Review 


    “A road trip from Chicago to Virginia is transformed into a complex mental journey in Pittard’s (Reunion) third novel... Chilling events ratchet up the suspense as well as magnify the couple’s strengths and weaknesses in Pittard’s memorable examination of the precarious terrain of marriage.” —Publishers Weekly 


    "Pittard skillfully alternates between the points of view of Mark and Maggie, who often tell readers much more than they’ve told one another. Perfect for those who like to observe characters’ minds and relationships from the backseat." —Booklist 


    “The setup of Pittard's third novel is a simple and effective one: a cross-country journey in which an already-frayed marriage is pushed to its limit, even as the landscape through which the characters travel turns increasingly ominous… there's plenty of moodiness and societal commentary to be found in Pittard's taut novel.” —Kirkus 


    "It's a rare novel that expertly portrays a totally normal marriage, but Listen to Me also reminds readers that it's the normal patterns of a long-term relationship that allow it to survive."  Shelf Awareness 


    “Hannah Pittard's got the goods. There's no doubt about it. Listen to Me has a way of making you uneasy from the get go. Maybe it’s the approaching storm, the dark night, all the terrible things that might be hiding around the corner. Or maybe it’s just how much the main characters, with all of their faults and scars and frustrated desires, remind us of ourselves.  Regardless, this is a psychologically complex, addictive, and quick moving read.  I didn't want it to end!”—M.O. Walsh, author of New York Times bestselling novel My Sunshine Away 


    “Listen to Me is the sort of novel you want to read in one sitting: suspenseful, unsettling, and beautifully written. Hannah Pittard goes into one couple’s dark night of the soul with surprising charm and wit, but also with a fierce and intelligent honesty.” —Dean Bakopoulos, author of Summerlong 


    “In Listen to Me, Hannah Pittard takes the reader on a married couple...