Half of What You Hear
"Perfect for fans of Big Little Lies." -Kirkus
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From well-loved women’s fiction writer Kristyn Kusek Lewis comes a breakout novel about a woman moving to a small community and uncovering the many secrets that hide behind closed doors—perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty and Elin Hilderbrand.
Greyhill, Virginia—refuge of old money, old mansions, and old-fashioned ideas about who belongs and who doesn’t—just got a few new residents. When Bess Warner arrives in town with her husband Cole and their kids, she thinks she knows what to expect. Sure, moving to Cole’s small hometown means she’ll have to live across the street from her mother-in-law, and yes, there’s going to be a lot to learn as they take over Cole’s family’s inn-keeping business, but Bess believes it will be the perfect escape from Washington. She needs it to be. After losing her White House job under a cloud of scandal, she hardly knows who she is anymore.
But Bess quickly discovers that fitting in is easier said than done. Instead of the simpler life she’d banked on, she finds herself preoccupied by barbed questions from gossipy locals and her own worries over how her twins are acclimating at the town’s elite private school. When the opportunity to write an article for the Washington Post’s lifestyle supplement falls into Bess’s lap, she thinks it might finally be her opportunity to find her footing here…even if the subject of the piece is Greyhill’s most notorious resident.
Susannah “Cricket” Lane, fruit of the town’s deepest-rooted family tree, is a special sort of outsider, having just returned to Greyhill from New York after a decades-long hiatus. The long absence has always been the subject of suspicion, not that the eccentric Susannah cares what anyone thinks; as a matter of fact, she seems bent on antagonizing as many people as possible. But is Susannah being sincere with Bess—or is she using their strangely intense interview sessions for her to further an agenda that includes peeling back the layers of Greyhill’s darkest secrets?
As Bess discovers unsettling truths about Susannah and Greyhill at large, ones that bring her into the secrets of prior generations, she begins to learn how difficult it is to start over in a town that runs on talk, and that sometimes, the best way to find yourself is to uncover what everyone around you is hiding....
Praise For Half of What You Hear: A Novel…
“After losing her job at the White House, a woman moves her family to her husband’s affluent (and gossip-y) hometown, where she finds that fitting in is almost as hard as figuring out who’s hiding what about their lives.”
“Exciting and addicting. . . . you’ll have a hard time putting it down this holiday season.”
“The story won’t end where you expect it to, and its strong women’s-relationships theme underscores many truths.”
“A character-driven, dishy, gossipy, fun read. . . . A fine story that will move readers to look for other books by this talented author.”
— New York Journal of Books
“The fast pace and intriguing mystery make this one perfect for fans of Big Little Lies. A compelling look at the power of small-town gossip.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“The ending is neatly constructed, with satisfying redemption for all. Fans of Emily Griffin and Sally Hepworth will appreciate this enjoyable family drama featuring likable characters in challenging situations.”
“An astute, exquisite account of a gossipy small town . . . . mesmerizing and entertaining.”
— The Washington Book Review
“This engrossing novel has everything: a web of secrets, gossip and lies, and a heroine you’ll be cheering for. In other words, it’s delightful.”
— Jennifer Close, author of Girls in White Dresses and The Hopefuls
“A juicy delight of a novel! HALF OF WHAT YOU HEAR has it all: a charming small town, family secrets, and relatable working mom heroine whose life hits a speedbump. Fans of Liane Moriarty will adore the quirky cast of characters, gossip, and intrigue. I thoroughly enjoyed it!”
— Jamie Brenner, bestselling author of The Forever Summer and The Husband Hour
“A delicious, insightful page-turner set in a genteel Virginia town where everyone knows your secrets—and nothing is what it appears.”
— Kristin Harmel, international bestselling author of The Room on Rue Amelie and The Sweetness of Forgetting
“Imagine a Liane Moriarty novel served with a tall glass of sweet tea and you’ll have Half of What You Hear. Kristyn Kusek Lewis’ latest tells the story of a Virginia town that may be too small to handle the truth—and the explosive result when several women’s secrets manage to come to light anyway. Utterly captivating.”
— Camille Pagán, bestselling author of Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties
“Incredibly intriguing, Half of What You Hear is a must-read that artfully delves its way through the layers of gossip, secrets and lies of the small and seemingly charming town of Greyhill, where everyone knows your name, and oh so much more. Buckle up for a fun ride and one thing is for sure: you won’t know who to believe until the very end.”
— Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke, bestselling authors of Girls’ Night Out
Harper Paperbacks, 9780062673350, 384pp.
Publication Date: December 31, 2018
About the Author
Kristyn Kusek Lewis is the author of HALF OF WHAT YOU HEAR (Harper Paperbacks, 2019), SAVE ME (Grand Central, 2014) and HOW LUCKY YOU ARE (Grand Central, 2012). A former magazine editor, Kristyn has been writing for national publications for nearly twenty years and is currently the contributing books editor at Real Simple magazine. Kristyn is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross and the Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she earned an MFA in creative writing. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area with her family.
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. Does Bess’s move to Greyhill feel like an escape from her humiliation in Washington or a proactive move for her family? What would you have done in her shoes?
2. Do you think Bess deserved to lose her job at the White House? Is “venting with a coworker,” as Bess describes her behavior, ever acceptable or is it always a bad idea?
3. In what ways is Greyhill a typical “small town”? Does it seem like the residents make a conscious effort to keep out outsiders, and if so, do you think this is true of small towns in general? Would you ever live in a place like it?
4. Does Cole owe it to Bess to help her feel more comfortable in Greyhill because it’s his hometown, or is it better for her to have to carve her own path?
5. What does Susannah owe the residents of Greyhill? Is it fair for her to sell off the land even if it means a fundamental change in the town’s character? Is change inevitable?
6. How do the flashbacks to Bess’s high school years reflect her current-day experience with the other mothers in Greyhill? Is Cole right that she’s projecting a bit? Or is Livvie’s experience trying to find friends in their new town similar to hers?
7. Susannah is a layered, complex character with many secrets. By the novel’s end, how had your initial impressions of her changed? Did you feel more or less sympathy for her?
8. Henrietta Martin has taken on an important symbolic significance for the residents of Greyhill. What does she represent for them? How do you think they’ll change their opinions about her and her death now that Bess’s article has shed some light on the incident?
9. Diane is, in some ways, a typical mother-in-law, but she surprises Bess by the end of the book. Did you have to revise your earlier impressions of her, as Bess did? What do you think their future relationship will be like?
10. Does gossip serve any positive purpose in this novel? Have you ever had an instance in your own life when gossiping helped a situation, or do you believe in the old adage that if you can’t say something nice, then you shouldn’t say anything at all? What do you think of people who are described as gossips?