What do you do when evil surrounds you and suffocates your voice?
Speak No Evil by Liana Gardner (Vesuvian Books, Oct 1, 2019), features a talented young singer whose voice can actually charm snakes. Melody Fisher’s parents are snake handlers in an Appalachian church, but she’s forced into the foster care system after her mother dies from a rattlesnake bite—something she blames herself for—and her father disappears. Could anything be as bad as losing her parents? Sadly, yes.
After a disastrous time with her uncle, Child Protective Services moves Melody to the loving arms of Quatie Raincrow on the Cherokee reservation, but alas good things come to an end. When her protector dies, Melody once again finds herself battling loneliness and fear living as a stranger in a strange land. It feels to her every time she speaks, evil follows.
Her nightmare odyssey worsens when she’s sexually abused by her foster father. Trying to push the horrific events out of her mind, she attempts to develop real friendships at school but is haunted by visions of her abuser. After another incident happens with a boy from school, Melody feels as though silence is her only ally. Not even her love of music can protect her but, in the end, it proves to be a way for her freedom.
Melody’s search for happiness gives us a peek into true friendship and support for survival. It’s not hard to be won over by Melody’s strength despite her struggles and her songs illustrate the emotion in her story.
Many who have no comprehension about sexual assault might blame the girl for not speaking up sooner, but fear will often suppress your voice. The use of music and song lyrics were the saving limb Melody clung to, and I wish other foster children had that gift as well.
Author Liana Gardner accurately brings us into the world of Melody’s silence and lets us experience her pain, fear, and anxieties as she faces the uncertain future many children lost and abused in the foster care system do. We worry for Melody as we see her story unfold and we discover she possesses an “eerie” gift.
The inspiration for the story, the writer says, arose from the power of music and its ability to convey emotion. “Sometimes music says everything you cannot about how you’re feeling. It connects to your soul.” I totally agree here since I, too, relate to music and often it brings up memories—both happy and sad.
The book introduces us into a world that few of know but every 98 seconds another person experiences sexual assault; every 9 minutes that victim is a child. One in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse at the hands of an adult. 93% of those abusers are known to the victim. (Statistics from RAINN.org) Despite that only 5 of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison.
The non-linear story follows Melody in therapy sessions as the doctor peels apart the layers of her past. Time-jumping creates mystery and suspense. Melody faces the easier issues first before becoming strong enough to go deeper. Those who have been in psychotherapy can understand this perfectly.
There are many like our heroine locked in the system, needing to be heard and yet afraid to speak. We are obligated to hear and understand them – and help them whenever we can.
This masterfully written book is a deeply satisfying, well-developed story that’s worth the read! You won’t forget it. I wanted the story to go on… and find out how things turn out for Melody.
It’s available in hardcover, trade and e-book.