I have been following Jessica’s blog True Stories for some time and knew she had written a book, one that intrigued me before I even knew what it was about, because I was already familiar with the voice and thoughts of its author and knew it would be a powerful story told with a quiet voice.
She had some very interesting and thought-provoking things to say about Quiet Literature after a comment made by an agent at a writer’s conference. The agent after reading two pages of her manuscript said: “This has the risk of being too quiet. You don’t want to be too quiet.” In the weeks that followed that interaction, Jessica came to realise that quiet could well be an apt description and that quiet was exactly how she wanted her story and writing to be.
“But I am in love with quiet. Quiet literature assumes the reader is intelligent and thoughtful, able to read between the lines, between the gestures, and peek into the spaces between the words—to understand the words that aren’t there, and why. The quiet reader doesn’t need to be told everything.” Jessica Null Vealitzek
Now published by SheWrites Press, The Rooms Are Filled, is a coming-of-age story of two outsiders brought together by a recent change in their lives: a Minnesota farm boy moves to suburban Chicago after his father dies, and his teacher, a closeted young woman attempts to start over after failing to live openly. As these two characters navigate new unfamiliar lives, they will make changes and adapt as they reveal who they really are.
Michael is nine years old as he stands and watches paramedics try to bring his father back to life after he collapses while fixing a rotting fence post outside the barn door. It was the day after his father had finally taken him out on one of his excursions into the snow-clad woods, scouring the landscape for traps that farmers had set to stop wolves menacing their flocks, introducing him to members of the pack, like family he would glimpse but never know .
For a time the days pass as they have done, however his father’s sudden death means all that he has known must change. He and his mother will leave the farm, the wilderness and its wolves that had been such a large part of his father’s life and move to the town where his Uncle lives, where his mother can find a job, and start again.
Both will face challenges as will another new arrival, Julia Parnell, Michael’s new school teacher, who has run from facing up to her own reality, taking refuge in this town, only to discover there is nowhere to hide from one’s true self.
The story quietly takes on issues common in our societies today and makes the reader feel what it is to be an outsider, to live outside a small town’s expectations.
Despite the sad beginning, the story unfolds with a grounded reality, life in the countryside, its rituals and chores evoke a feeling like driving along a familiar country road watching the landscape pass by, until we make a sudden turn into new territory and encounter a different kind of settlement where life is no longer as we knew it and one has to develop a whole new aspect to one’s character to survive an unknown urban species.
It is a gripping read, after a slow beginning getting to know these two characters and it’s a book that and once started I couldn’t put down.
The ending was a little mysterious and uncertain, I’m still thinking about that and no doubt it will provoke as much discussion as the story itself.
A Story of Survival – Jessica’s post on her passion for wolves
Quiet Literature – Jessica’s post on why Quiet is ok and for her, essential
Note: This book was an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) kindly provided by the publisher via NetGalley.