WHISPERS
Belva Plain


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Dell, April 1994
Reviewed by Sissy Jacobson

Contemporary Mainstream

Lynn Riemer was a twenty-year-old secretary when she and her twenty-seven-year old boss Robert V.W. Ferguson met. He was big city sophisticate; Lynn was naive, small town Iowa. They fell madly in love and married. Lynn couldn't understand why her father and her sister Helen didn't like Robert. They simply couldn't see how wonderful he was.

Robert is on the fast track to the top in a major company, and is taking Lynn with him. He is soon promoted to the main office in New York City, and they move from St. Louis to an upscale Connecticut suburb. There they purchase a beautiful home and furnish it with the best of everything. Antiques march along side by side with expensive contemporary furniture. Robert believes in buying only the best. Lynn is the model executive wife, always well dressed, a wonderful homemaker, and talented decorator and cook. They appear to be a perfect family living the American dream. They have it all. Beautiful home, lovely clothes, expensive jewelry, and two girls, one of whom is a high achiever like her workaholic dad. But is all as it seems from the outside?

There are times when Robert, who works hard for his family, becomes extremely upset and lashes out verbally, and yes, at times physically. These times occur so far apart, and he is so very apologetic, making up to Lynn by taking care of her when she is injured, buying her gifts or taking her on vacations. Of course he is not a spousal abuser…not Robert. Lynn should have kept her mouth shut, or done whatever it was differently. He loves her and the children. These things must be kept quiet and behind closed doors. After all, Robert really doesn't mean it, and it happens so seldom.

In WHISPERS Belva Plain realistically portrays spousal abuse and its devastating effect on the family. The excuses and the keeping of secrets are accurately expressed. Lynn doesn't think there is anything unusual in the fact that she never has any money. She can buy whatever she wants and charge it. Robert will pay the bills without a qualm. She blames herself for his outbursts and makes excuses for him. These things never occur in public, so they believe they are keeping their secrets. But are they? Do people really not suspect?

Ms. Plain has taken a true to life situation and written a moving story that reflects a problem that occurs all too often. Like Lynn, many wives don't realize they are being abused, either verbally or physically or both. If they do recognize it, they blame themselves. Many feel they can't leave because they have no means of support. What will happen to this family? Will the abuse escalate? Will Robert change? Will Robert accept that he is an abuser? I'm afraid you'll have to read WHISPERS to find out.

The subject is a very sad and moving one, but the story is written in such a way that the reader is not moved to tears. It is truly an eye-opening account of one family's life and how they each cope with the situation. WHISPERS is an excellent book that I can highly recommend. It doesn't preach, just tells a story.

 

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