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It is not unusual for children to wonder if they are adopted. In some
case, they might look quite differently from their parents or siblings.
Some of these children will discover that they are adopted, however, many
will not. This is a natural part of the maturation processes of self-identification
and individuation for some children. What, however, if you were no longer
a child, but a 40-year old woman who had already come to terms with your
physical and personality differences from others in your family when forced
to face this issue? What if you discover that you were not who you thought
you were and that your family had lied to you? These are some of the questions
that confront the protagonist in Marcia Muller's new mystery, Listen
to the Silence.
Listen to the Silence is set in contemporary California. Sharon
McCone, a San Francisco private investigator, is at a family wedding when
she is called aside and told that her estranged father has suddenly passed
away. Her father has also left her "the dubious privilege of going through
the stuff in the garage." In the process of sifting through his "stuff",
Sharon finds a box of old papers that included her adoption papers. This
is a major shock for Sharon who had spent a lifetime explaining away her
obvious physical differences for other members of her family. When Sharon
confronts Kay, the woman she grew up calling "Ma", Kay refuses to discuss
the adoption and tearfully begs Sharon not to delve into the past. Querying
older family members only compounds the mystery. Either everyone is still
lying to her or no one was aware that she was adopted. Finally, her beloved
uncle, Jim, suggests that she might want to focus her investigation on
her great-aunt Fenella McCone. Fenella, a confirmed spinster and anthropologist,
spent her life studying the family's Amerindian roots, but the year that
Sharon was born, Fenella made frequent visited to Kay. Sharon's investigate
into Fenella's research in hopes of learning the names of her birth parents
and the truth behind her adoption, leads her into the complex world of
Amerindian social customs and rituals, tribal politics, and finally, places
her at the vortex of a legal battle for land rights between the tribe and
big business. The skirmishes of this battle are not always fought in the
courtroom, leading to mysterious accidents and suspicious deaths. As in
any good western, the novel culminates with a shootout in an abandoned
Marcia Muller is called "the Mother of the Modern Female Sleuth." Muller
has received the Private Eye Writers of America's Lifetime Achievement
Award (1993) and the Romantic Times Lifetime Achievement in Suspense Award
(1999). Muller introduced the character of Sharon McCone, private investigator,
in her first mystery,
of the Iron Shoes (1977). Since then, Muller has not only written
many volumes in the McCone series, but she has also written a number of
freestanding mysteries and contribute to a number of short mystery anthologies.
She has also collaborated with her husband, Bill Pronzini, an equally lauded
mystery and suspense writer, on a couple of mysteries. Listen to the
Silence is the 22nd novel in the Sharon McCone mystery series.
While Listen to the Silence by Marcia Muller has all of the traditional
elements of a mystery novel, i.e. sinister deeds, suspicious happenings,
a few dead bodies, guilty suspects, and plenty of red herrings, the focus
of the book is upon Sharon's adoption. This time her investigation is personal.
She is forced to reflect upon the impact that her investigation is having
and will have on other people. Is the search for truth worth the cost in
human suffering? The issue of adoption secrecy is a very muddy issue involving
intense pain and fear for all involved. One can understand the deep emotions
of the adoptee's desire to know, the adoption parent's fear of be replaced,
and the birth parent's curiosity, yet fear of being sought out years later.
Unlike most mysteries, the reader is faced with ambivalence emotions towards
the parties involved and their actions. In closing, I want to acknowledge
that the situation and emotions described in this book bears some reality.
A close friend of mine found out he was adopted in the very same
way described in this book. The night his mother died, he went looking
for her insurance papers and instead found his adoption papers. While intensely
curious, unlike Sharon, he decided not to investigate. I sit here holding
this book and wonder, "should I give it to him?" I decide not to, to let
sleeping dogs lie, and not to open any emotional cans of worms. I want
to protect his feelings and sense of identity. Then I wonder, "Am I guilt
of contributing to the secrecy?" The web of secrecy is very understandable
when you are trapped in it yourself. A very thought-provoking mystery!
© 2001 Suzanne Garrison-Terry
Education: B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S.
in Library Science from Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S.
in Religious Studies/Pastoral Counseling from Fairfield University,
and a M.Div. in Professional Ministry from New Brunswick Theological
Seminary. She is currently completing a Certificate in Spirituality/Spiritual
Direction from Sacred Heart University (July 2001). She is a Licensed
Minister of the United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor
in Library Science at Dowling College, Long Island, NY.
Interests in Mental Health: I am interested in the interplay between
psychology and spirituality. My current research focuses on the
role of hormonal fluctuation during puberty, pregnancy, and peri-menopause
as a stimuli for mystical experiences. Through the study of autobiographical
accounts of the mystical experiences of "historically accepted"
female Christian mystics and additional biographical information,
I am analyzing the connection between the onset of mystical experiences
and biological data/symptomology for the potential existence of
hormonal fluctuation or irregularity. If this sounds like an unusual
topic, nota bene how many medieval female mystics began having
"vision" on or about the age of 40!
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