Cover image for Whispers
Plain, Belva.
Personal Author:
Large print book club edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Delacorte Press, [1993]

Physical Description:
666 pages (large print) 22 cm
Format :


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X Adult Large Print Large Print

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It can happen in the best of families--even the Fergusons. When Lynn and Robert first meet, she's bright, fresh-faced twenty-year old; he's handsome, a bit older, a charming young executive on the fast track. From the start they fall deeply in love, thrilled by the discovery of their mutual desire. But as early as their honeymoon the gold begins to tarnish, when Robert's anger erupts into a physical assault, one for which Lynn blames herself. To all appearances Lynn and Robert are living the ultimate American dream-a lovely home in an exclusive Connecticut suburb, a picture-perfect marriage, two beautiful children, a country club membership, and wonderful friends. But not even with their closest friends can Lynn reveal what is truly happening to her family. Their secret life is betrayed only is whispers of what goes on behind closed doors.

Author Notes

Belva Plain lives in northern New Jersey. She is the author of the bestselling novels "Evergreen", "Random Winds", "Eden Burning", "Crescent City", "The Golden Cup", "Tapestry", "Blessings", "Harvest", "Treasures", "Whispers", "Daybreak", "The Carousel", "Promises", "Secrecy", "Homecoming", "Legacy of Silence", "Fortune's Hand", and "After the Fire".

(Publisher Provided) Belva Plain was born in New York City on October 9, 1915. She received a degree in history from Barnard College in 1939. Her first short story was published in Cosmopolitan when she was 25 years old, and she continued to write for the publication for years. Her first novel, Evergreen (1978), was on the New York Times bestseller list for 41 weeks and was made into a television miniseries. Her other works include Crescent City, Promises, Blessings, The Carousel, Daybreak, and After the Fire. She died on October 12, 2010 at the age of 95.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Plain's latest is impeccably done and ought to please her large readership. It isn't literature, to be sure, but it's the kind of book that reminds us that, since its inception, the novel has been used for instruction and consolation. Richardson's epistolary novels were originally meant to teach good letter-writing style. The biggest nineteenth-century U.S. best-sellers were as much manuals of moral conduct and Christian reassurance as good stories. Indeed, many weren't very good stories, and neither is Whispers. It's the chronicle of the domestic crises of an upper-middle-class woman married to an ambitious, image-obsessed executive who flies into violent rages when he feels thwarted. Yes, she's the long-suffering spouse of a wife beater--a setup right out of the so-called four-hankie movies of the 1930s through 1950s that used to star actresses named Joan, Jane, Jean, and June. Plain's purposes in rehearsing this scenario again are to illustrate what an abusive relationship is, to inculcate that it can afflict women in even the best strata of society, to sympathetically model getting out of such a situation, and to stress how difficult getting out can be even--perhaps especially--for a good, smart, talented woman. She succeeds admirably and affectingly, and her heroine's trials and eventual triumphs will instruct and console a huge audience. (Reviewed Mar. 15, 1993)0385299281Ray Olson

Publisher's Weekly Review

Plain's accomplished portrayal of a seemingly perfect Connecticut homemaker and her abusive husband was a PW bestseller. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



In dodging Robert's hand, the furious hand aimed at her face, she fell and struck the edge of the closet's open door instead. Now on the floor, stunned by a rush of pain, she leaned against the wall, touched her cheek, and, in a kind of astonishment, stared at the blood on her hand.   Robert's eyes and his mouth had become three dark, round holes in his face.   "Oh, good God!" He knelt beside her. "Let me look. No, let me, Lynn! Thank goodness it's nothing. Just a break in the skin. An accident ... I'll get a washcloth and ice cubes. Here, let me pull you up."   "Don't touch me, damn you!" Thrusting his hand away, she pulled herself up and sat down on the bed between the suitcases. Her face burned, while her cold fingers felt for the rising lump on her cheekbone. Another lump, thick with outrage and tears, rose in her throat.   Robert bustled between the bedroom and the bathroom. "Damn, where's the ice bucket? In a first-class hotel like this you'd think they'd put--oh, here it is. Now just lie back. I'll fix the pillows. Hold this to your face. Does it hurt much?"   His expressions of anxiety were sickening. She closed her eyes. If she could have closed her ears, she would have done so. His voice, so rich, so beautifully modulated, was trying to soothe her.   "You tripped. I know I raised my hand but you tripped. I'm sorry, but you were so angry, you were almost hysterical, Lynn, and I had to stop you somehow."   She opened her eyes. "I? I was so angry? I was almost hysterical? Think again and tell the truth if you can."   "Well, I did lose my temper a little. I'll admit that. But can you blame me? Can you? When I depended on you to do the packing and you know how important this convention is, you know this could be my chance for promotion to the New York headquarters, the main chance of a lifetime maybe, and here I am without a dinner jacket."   "I didn't do it on purpose. Now I'll tell you for the third time that Kitty Lombard told me the men won't be wearing tuxedos. I specifically asked about it."   "Kitty Lombard! She steered you wrong on purpose and you're too stupid to know it. How often have I told you that people like nothing better than to see somebody else look like a fool? Especially in the business world. They all want to sabotage you. When will you learn to stop trusting every Tom, Dick, and Harry you come across? Never, I suppose." Striding across the room, in his powerful indignation, Robert looked about ten feet tall. "And by the way, may I remind you again that it's not called a 'tuxedo'? It's a 'dinner jacket.' "   "All right, all right. I'm a hick, a small-town hick, remember? My dad ran a hardware store. I never saw a dinner jacket except in pictures until I met you. But I never saw a man raise his hand to a woman either."   "Oh, let's stop this, Lynn! There's no sense going over it all night. It's almost six, and the dinner's at seven. Your ice is melting. Let me have a look again."   "I'll take care of myself, thanks. Let me alone."   In the bathroom she closed the door. The full-length mirror reflected a small, freckled woman, still girlish at thirty-six, with bangs and a curving cap of smooth sandy hair worn as she had in high school. The face, pleasing yet unremarkable except for a pair of rather lovely light eyes, was disfigured now by the bruise, much larger than she had imagined and already more hideously, brightly blue and green than one would have thought possible. She was horrified.   Robert opened the door. "Jesus! How can you possibly go downstairs looking like that! Unless--" He frowned over his thoughts.   "Unless what, if you please?"   "Well--I don't know. I could say the airline lost the bag with my clothes, and that you have a stomach virus, one of those twenty-four-hour things. Make yourself comfortable, take a hot bath, keep the ice on your face, get in bed, and read. Call room service and have a good dinner. Relax. It'll do you good. A nice quiet dinner without kids."   Lynn stared at him. "Mr. Efficiency. You have it figured out, as always."   Everything was ruined, this happily anticipated weekend away, the new dress, spring-green silk with crystal buttons, the new bottle of perfume, the manicure, all the joy gone. Sordid ruination. And he could stand there, confident, handsome, and secure, ready to cope, to go forward again.   "I hate you," she said.   "Oh, Lynn, cut it out. I am not, I repeat, not going to go over this business ad infinitum. Just pull yourself together. I have to pull myself together for both our sakes, make an appearance and make the best of this opportunity. All the top brass will be here, and I can't afford to be rattled. I have to think clearly. Now I'm going to get dressed. Thank God my other suit is pressed."   "I know. I pressed it."   "Well, you got one thing straight, at least."   "I keep your whole life straight every day of my life."   "Will you lower your voice? People can hear you in the hall. Do you want to disgrace us both?"   Suddenly, as water is sucked down a drain, her strength rushed out. Her arms, her legs, even her voice refused to work and she dropped facedown onto the wide bed between the open suitcases. Her lips moved silently.   "Peace, peace," they said.   Robert moved about, jingling keys as he dressed. When he was ready to go he came to the bed.   "Well, Lynn? Are you going to stay there like that all rumpled up in your street clothes?"   Her lips moved, but silently, again. "Go away. Just go away," they said.   The door clicked shut. And at that moment the tension broke. All the outrage at injustice, the humiliation of helpless defeat, flowed out in torrential tears, tears that she could never have shed while anyone was watching.   "You were always a proud, spunky little thing," Dad used to say. Oh, such a proud, spunky little thing! she thought as she collapsed into long, heaving, retching sobs.   Much later, as abruptly as the torrent had started, it ceased. She was emptied, calmed, relieved. Cold and stiff from having lain so long uncovered, she got up and, for lack of any other purpose, went to the window. Forty floors below lights moved through the streets; lights dotted the silhouettes of Chicago's towers; light from the silver evening sky sprayed across Lake Michigan. Small, dark, fragmented clouds ran through the silver light and dissolved themselves within it. The whole scene was in motion, while the invisible wind rattled at the window glass.   Behind her the room was too still. Hotel rooms, when you were alone, were as desolate as a house emptied out after death. And Lynn, shuddering, ran to her carry-on bag, took out the photo of her children, and put it on the dresser, saying aloud, "There!" They had created an instant's presence.   And she stood looking, wanting most terribly these two girls whom she had left home in St. Louis only that morning and whom, like any other mother, she had been glad to leave behind for a while. Now, if she possibly could, she would repack her bag and fly back to them. Her beautiful Emily, the replica of Robert, would be at the sophomore dance tonight. Annie would just about now be going back to Aunt Helen's house from a third-grade birthday party. Smart Annie, funny, secretive, sensitive, difficult Annie. Yes, she would fly home to them right now if she could. But Robert had the tickets and the money. She never did have any cash beyond the weekly allowance for the household. And anyway, she thought, remembering, how could I just walk in with this face and without their father?   The silence began to buzz in Lynn's ears. A sensation of fear as of some desperate, unexplainable menace came flooding. The walls closed in.   "I have to get out of here," she said aloud.   Putting on her travel coat, she drew the collar up and wrapped a scarf around her head, drawing it like a peasant's babushka over her cheeks as far as it would go, which was not far enough. Luckily there were only two other people in the elevator during its long descent, a very young couple dressed for some gala event, and so tenderly engrossed with each other that they truly did not give a glance to Lynn's face. In the marble lobby people were either hurrying from cocktails to dinner or else lingering at the vitrines with their displays of glittering splendors, their jewels, leathers, satins, and furs.   Outdoors, cold spring air stung the burning bruise. At a drugstore she stopped to get something for it, a gauze bandage or some ointment, anything.   "I bumped into a door. Isn't that stupid?" she said. Then, shocked at the sight of her swollen eye in the mirror behind the man's head, she added clumsily, "And on top of that, I have this miserable allergy. My eyes--"   The man's own eyes, when he handed her a little package of allergy pills and a soothing ointment, reflected his disbelief and his pity. Overcome with shame at her own naïveté, she rushed away into the anonymity of the street.   Then, walking in the direction of the lake, she remembered vaguely from a previous visit to the city that there would be a green space there with walks and benches. It was really too cold to sit still, but nevertheless she sat down, tightened the coat around her, and gazed out to where the water met the sky. Couples strolled, walking their dogs and talking peaceably. It hurt so much to watch them that she could have wept, if she had not already been wept out. Excerpted from Whispers by Belva Plain All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.