The Echo Chamber was an epic of a woman’s journey through life. It showed how she experienced life using her extraordinary hearing. It was a book that made Sound one of the main characters. It forces you to embrace the darkness so you can hear as clearly as the main character does.
It tackled abandonment, family issues, mental health issues that transcend generations, colonialism, white supremacy, and privilege.
Aside from the main storyline, I enjoyed reading the stories told in the book, the stories invented by the explorers, the colonists, and those narrated by the half-deaf, mentally unstable author. I love how they all tie up with what’s happening in Evie’s real life.
The recollections, the stories that Evie heard as a child seemed to underscore her stories as a middle-aged woman, and vice versa. The whole book was narrated through Evie’s writings, letters, diaries, and cassette recordings. It was also interesting how Evie associates each chapter of her life with a memorable object — radio, pocket watch, Unica, her mother’s trunk.
Lastly, I liked how the author showed the budding sexuality of the main characters without being vulgar.
What I didn’t like was the several voice transitions throughout the novel. It might have been a literary choice, but I wanted to learn more about the “side stories” from Evie’s perspective. I wanted to learn more about her. It’s as the main character didn’t do much in the novel but to listen and be passive about what she hears. It was also weird to me that during her recollections, womb Evie and 10-year old Evie thought and talked like a middle-aged woman. I don’t understand what the author’s intention was in writing the character that way.
Of all the characters, I resonated with Mr. Rafferty the most. He was obsessive, off-beat, and loyal. He had led an interesting life, though not a happy one (or it seemed so on the outside). His inner life may have been happier, as he’d chosen to reside there more and more towards the end of life.
Some of the characters are not reliable in recalling their own stories, and the author had a clever way of showing that in the narrative. It was as if Williams was holding my hand so I can get all through the confusion, the chaotic mind of the characters.
When Evie and Ade had that rift, I knew it was natural, but it was comforting that instead of focusing on her loneliness, Evie found joy and solace in listening and observation.
There were a lot of things in her life that hurt her, maybe for the rest of her life, but I still don’t get which damage ultimately led her to jump off the ledge. Which part of her story finally made her lose her mind?
“Learn when I had no ears to speak of, and the silence was in me.”