Even before I knew there was another part of girls that would one day whisper to me, that would call me over and over, there was the machine in my uncle’s shoe store and there was Karen Granger and she was on my mind all the time and I somehow knew that I had to get her to put her feet in the machine. My uncle’s was the last store in Wabash, Illinois, to put in an X-ray machine to check the fit, and as soon as it was ready, I went to Karen and brought her to the shop. She had on her black Mary Janes and white lace anklets and she went up on the step and put her feet in the slots and my heart was beating furiously as I stepped up beside her, for there were two view ports and together we looked at the bones in her feet. I lifted my arm and I put it around her, cupping her far shoulder in my hand. “Wiggle your toes,” I said.
She did, and to this day, though I am now thirty-five years old, there have been few moments in my life as intimate as the sight of Karen Granger’s actual bones, her actual articulated bones with their shape visible to me, the shape that had been secret even when she stood barefoot in the grass of her front yard bossing me and giving me an excuse to keep my eyes cast down. She wiggled her toes in the green glow of the X ray and she let me keep my arm around her and she began to hum softly.
“They Whisper is a shape-shifting narrative that lingers in a reader’s moral consciouness and memory… [It] is a fully realized and important expression of our era.”
— Jane Smiley, The New York Times Book Review
“Remarkable… The most painfully honest depiction of the male heart since Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair.”
— Esquire (U.K.)
“Butler’s rare gift as a novelist lies in his sensitive rendering of the female voice… [In They Whisper] Butler has written a new kind of novel which cuts through the cant and dishonesty of fiction to affirm the dignity of sex… If a novel is, at best, a form with which we utter ourselves, structure our experience, name our world into being, then Butler’s powerful and compelling new book has accomplished exactly that.”
— Sharmani Patricia Gabriel, Malaysia New Straits Times
“A profound, disturbing, and important book… Nothing less than a meditation on the spiritual nature of sexuality.”
— Josephine Hart, The Washington Post Book World
“An impassioned meditation on the mysteries of women and sex and desire… Triumphantly erotic.”
— Men’s Journal
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