“The Silence” by T.C. Boyle mixes humor with tragedy as the protagonist (it’s in third person limited, and I don’t think we ever learn his name) pays for a retreat that is to last three years, three months and three days, during which no words are to be spoken.
Each scene is titled, and follows the narrator through his initial enthusiasm and interactions with his new wife or girlfriend. It’s confusing exactly what their relationship is. However, as the realities of the desert begin to press down on the characters in the story, can they really find the inner harmony which they seek?
My introduction to T.C. Boyle began with his novel Drop City, and the characters in this story remind me of the communal hippies from the novel. Flaky, idealistic men and women seem to be a source from which Boyle can repeatedly draw. He makes the characters stand off the pages of the book, knows their strengths, and loves to humorously rip on their weaknesses.
Quiet, funny, and ultimately a sad story, “The Silence” is one to read, and read again.