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The Hush


The Hush

In THE HUSH, British author Sara Foster not only stares COVID-19 directly in the face, she has set the action of her somewhat dystopian novel a few years after the pandemic. A series of maladies have followed that essentially have created a “new normal” for the denizens of planet Earth, who have concluded that constant change is the reality with which they are dealing.

A stanza from Robert Browning’s classic poem, “The Pied Piper of Hamelin: A Child’s Story,” is referenced at the start of the book. Foster did not choose this passage by accident, and I got a particular chill as I read these lines: “And the Piper advanced, and the children followed, And all were in to the very last, The door in the mountain-side shut fast.” It made me think, with a small shudder, that we are the children in this situation and the Pied Piper is our inevitable fate.

"If you’re one of those people who have sweated out every day of the pandemic and pondered where all this is leading, THE HUSH may be the horror story that haunts your daily nightmares."

THE HUSH is called “[t]he novel everyone will be talking about this year” in a blurb that charms the front cover, and I can understand why. Even with the action set in the not-too-distant future, its narrative feels scarily contemporary and plausible. Emma is a midwife during a pivotal time in our history. Six months prior to the start of the book, an apparently healthy baby was born and would not take a breath. Instead of being an isolated case, it turns out to be the start of a new epidemic that is causing panic throughout the country.

The response to this tragedy is an unexpected one as pregnant young women begin to disappear. An overly intrusive government uses these circumstances as impetus to take control of the population and smash any idea of personal freedom and liberties. The book’s suspense can be found primarily in the storyline of Emma’s 17-year-old daughter, Lainey, who happens to find herself pregnant. We find this out together as Lainey and her best mate, Sereena, hit a local pharmacy to swipe a pregnancy test from their shelves. When the results come back positive, Lainey fears the worst. She lets the father know --- her classmate, Dylan --- but doesn’t tell her mum at first.

The government uses watches to control and spy on the population. At one point, Lainey and a teacher at her school who she fully trusts switch watches in an effort to hide her pregnancy while it is not physically evident. When she looks at the new watch, she is frightened to read about pregnant young women who have disappeared and never come back.

The police come to the high school on a day when Lainey is not there. Sereena is picked out by the pharmacist as the one who stole the pregnancy test and is taken away, perhaps never to be seen again. Lainey decides to confess her condition to Emma, who is initially angry and then frightened into action. She knows firsthand that she must protect Lainey from the government, or else she may never see her daughter again.

It is clear to Emma that she needs the assistance of her estranged mother, Geraldine Fox, an author and a dynamic public figure who carries with her a lot of influence. Hopefully, this influence will be enough to safely transport Lainey to Australia, where the totalitarian society has not yet taken a firm grasp on the population. Here is where the book’s white-knuckle suspense has a tight hold on the narrative as well as the readers’ pulse. Little does Emma know that this decision is placing all three of them in mortal danger from a government that makes Big Brother look like a close friend.

I could not stop thinking about THE HANDMAID’S TALE as I read this book. Margaret Atwood’s masterpiece depicts a near-future much like the one Foster has created; the story is strongly female-centric, and the condition known as pregnancy is the central storyline that drives the narrative. If you’re one of those people who have sweated out every day of the pandemic and pondered where all this is leading, THE HUSH may be the horror story that haunts your daily nightmares. For those who can be a bit more objective, it is a prediction of just one of many directions in which humanity may be heading. Both situations are equally chilling.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on December 10, 2021

The Hush
by Sara Foster

  • Publication Date: November 2, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1665106859
  • ISBN-13: 9781665106856