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Tom Peck
Sounds of Silence by Judith Richards
Post Date:
2016-10-24 00:11:19

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Aramenta Lee’s peaceful emigre life in Paris is shattered by a terse wire summoning her home: AM DYING COME HOME MOTHER. Reluctantly returning to the great family mansion in Mobile, she remembers her willful manipulative mother who had driven one daughter and a son to miserable, untimely deaths. Only Aramenta had escaped through a happy marriage to Lt. James Darcy. But when James died overseas in combat and Aramenta lost their baby at birth, she had left home for a new life in Paris.

The sole heir now to the family fortune, Aramenta determines to sell the mansion, settle the estate, and return to Paris. But she is thwarted. Aramenta seems clutched in the spectral hands of her dead mother — caught in the legal morass of wills and probate, an ambitious attorney, and social pressure.

Her young lawyer hires a deaf-mute handyman, Virgil Wilson, to assist in preparing the 41 room mansion for sale. Virgil is intelligent and perceptive, but isolated by silence. He yearns for the day when Aramenta will speak to him in the only language he knows, the sign language of the deaf, and dreams that she will favor him with her money.

In the subbasement of the old house, Aramenta Lee discovers a family tragedy and her mother’s final macabre legacy. Self-imprisoned in the wine cellar for thirty years is the son she had thought dead — a mute recluse terrified of the outside world, and his own mother. He fiercely resists her attempts to communicate, choosing to retreat to the isolation of the cellar, which has shielded him for so long.

When all her own efforts fail, Aramenta turns in desperation to the deaf handyman, Virgil. Ultimately it is Virgil who brings about the novel’s stirring and triumphant climax, as the battle of wills between Aramenta, her son, and Virgil resolves itself in a gripping upbeat finale.


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