Speech/language pathologists have the ability to empathize and help those with differences such as mutism. After reading Karla M. Jay’s new book, It Happened in Silence, it brought home the fact that this author can also write to move the readers to understand society’s injustices and cruelties to those not only with language differences, but also the dispossessed, and those of a different color. 

The story came out of thorough historical research (resources cited) on the chain gangs, baby farms (the saddest), the Women of the KKK in the 1920’s, laws that were written for the white and upper class, as well as a court system of judges that supported these practices. Ms. Jay’s weaving of her characters within this historical context created a greater feeling of authenticity for the characters. At times the reader is able to see remnants of these past practices in today’s world. Will those in power give drink and food to those who need it?

In addition to the thorough research on life during the influenza pandemic Ms. Jay was able to use the dialect and idioms to bring the characters to life to give a greater feeling for the deep south. Her descriptions put the reader squarely in the personality of the characters. The reader is unable to escape the infuriating duplicity of a main leading lady of the Women’s KKK, Ardith Dobbs. At the same time, the reader is unable to overcome the fear and desperation that the young 15-year-old mute girl, Willow, feels as she is bounced around in dangerous situations by a law that uses and abuses people of little means and differences.

The aspect that makes the book stand out more than the above is Ms. Jay’s ability to create suspense that carries the reader from chapter to chapter. The reader will read a chapter in which the young mute girl is in danger. It appears that the situation is resolved only for the girl to be placed in another situation. The suspense builds for all the characters (Jo-Jo the bi-racial nanny, Willow’s brother Briar, and the other minor characters) throughout the book. Will Willow and Briar find their way home and out of the claws of the law? What will happen to the duplicitous Ardith Dobbs who works to “keep America pure” by keeping out the Catholics, blacks, Jews and others she considers unworthy? Read and enjoy!.

Best Novel by SLP – It Happened In Silence (Karla M. Jay)

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