Sarah Davis' "Inside Voices", A Review.
Sarah Davis’ novel “inside Voices” is a wonderful study of survival. A book which starts graphically, in the middle of a school massacre, to leave the reader as numb as the main character, Penny, as she struggles to survive her feelings of loss, guilt and the inevitability of doubt – could she have prevented the massacre and her father’s death?
Penny is blessed/cursed with premonitions – future events or events that are taking place at the moment. Given the chance, can events one perceives in the future be altered so that they might even never happen? The concept is old ground, yet Mrs Davis breathes life into the premise with other supernatural elements to her book – a mental connection between Penny and her twin, Lucy, and a strong resonance with animals, knowing their moods, feelings and needs, to the extent that those moods and feelings can also be manipulated. And all that with lovingly drawn characters that are as real as it gets. The voice here is exceptional. It’s THAT smooth.
Welcome to the wonderful world of the marine biologist, and this is where the book absolutely shines. The detail given to the animals and their care, Polar bear mannerisms – it’s just a details-nerd’s paradise – so my kind of book. And Davis’ easy, relaxed storytelling voice lulls you through each chapter. It’s eminently readable. Pages fly by, I lost track of time on more than one sitting. It is escapism, pure and simple.
To boil it down without giving anything away, Penny’s story is all about survival – what a person must do to survive in a hostile environment. Mentally and physically – and it conveys that solid sense of community that exists in those extremes, where everyone becomes family because survival is easier with everyone on board.
Fundamentally, this is a love story, wrapped lovingly with animals and rare species, cut to its core with an ongoing serial murderer in the environment, and a telepathic puzzle that is again, all about survival. You root for the budding relationship between Penny and Noah. You feel for the characters as they discover a polar bear cub, and root for the bear as it too learns the art of survival.
It’s a book that is surprising in its presentation too – the murderer was resolved almost too early for my sense of wellbeing – but then you realize that the subplot of the murderer was not the story anyway, that the story was always Penny herself. It’s a great book, a wonderful voice, a beautifully crafted world and a lovely twist at the end. I saw it coming, but the reveal was everything it had to be.
It left me sad to leave that world, which, after all, is the definition of a good book. And whilst the ending was vague enough that people shout “sequel”, I get the feeling that the author left the book exactly where it needed to end. Not every story should end. This feels more like real life – their story goes on, just in the reader’s mind.
Time well spent. An excellent Debut, by a wonderful new voice.
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