Helena Fox (How It Feels to Float) evocatively explores trauma, guilt and self-advocacy in this compelling and arresting novel.
The only time 18-year-old George experiences silence is in her kayak in the Sydney harbor. Her mum, stepmum and grandfather are always "clacking and pecking at each other," making her house "like a carnival ride." Her best friend, Tess, is about to become a teen mom and assumes George will help raise the baby. Bushfires are raging up north, edging closer to George's home, and her estranged alcoholic father keeps texting her with important news to share. There is one "ripple of something good in the mix and mess," however: Calliope, who makes George feel bright and hopeful. Despite the reprieve, though, George must help a struggling postpartum Tess while facing her past, filled with buried, traumatic memories that keep resurfacing.
Fox's The Quiet and the Loud takes place in Sydney, Australia, during the 2019 summer season when enormous wildfires swept through the continent. This devastating climate event perfectly parallels George's experience with complex PTSD. As the fires grow and travel closer to Sydney, George's flashbacks groan and stretch from flickers to full-on memories. She tries to push them away, but like the fires, they "rush towards each other, combine, incinerate, destroy." This vivid imagery is paired with evocative prose ("When I think about you... My bones feel picked clean") and lyric poems, through which George comes to understand that "you don’t have to look after everyone, or protect people who have hurt you." --Lana Barnes, freelance reviewer and proofreader