I really enjoyed reading this one! I watched the movie starring Kevin Bacon when it came out and I thought it did a great job with updating this source material into modern times. They do keep some of the same elements here and there, though they change the person who was murdered and why. I liked that since I then went into this book cold and had no clue who did what to whom or why. I will say though that this book was published in the late 1950s and you feel that throughout. The woman in this story are wholly dependent on their husbands and you get a claustrophobic feeling after a while in this suburban community where everyone knows each other and sees each other for dinner parties it seems like every week.
“A Stir of Echoes” follows Tom Wallace. Tom is happily married to his wife Anne. They have a toddler named Richard and are expecting another baby. He works at a plant and seems content with his life. When his brother in law comes to visit, they all go to their next door neighbor’s home. Eventually things turn into a discussion of hypnotism and then Tom agrees to be hypnotized. His brother in law telling him to let his mind be “free” seems to have awakened something in Tom. Now Tom is seeing ghosts and is able to sense and see what others are feeling and doing. With Tom getting increasingly ill due to his newfound abilities and wanting to rid himself of the ghost that seems to call nightly, things get stirred up in the sleepy suburban community that is not all that it seems.
Tom I thought was a great narrator. We find out that he loves his wife and feels ambivalent or indifferent to most of their neighbors. When his mind gets to be “free” though he becomes more attuned to them and sickened by their behavior. He feels trapped anytime he is near one of the women in the community who berates her husband and seems up for having an affair. The other neighbors definitely have a toxic marriage. The husband hates his wife for getting pregnant and talks of having affairs. I think that Matheson does a great job of contrasting Tom with them, but also showing how many people had marriages like this and you didn’t see it because even when things were said and done in front of you, you ignored it.
Tom’s wife Anne is a partner in this. She is angry and resentful of what this new ability is doing to Tom and turns away from him at times. I can see why after a while. This has to be alien to her. Her husband is supposed to provide for the family and protect them and now she is scared of what he may see that he chooses not to tell her.
The writing I think was pitch perfect for this time period. The flow works from beginning to end I thought and I didn’t have a problem with where the story was going.
The setting of the late 1950s and early 1960s I think makes sense for this book since I don’t know if the things revealed in this book in a contemporary time would matter? Or I don’t think it would work without it taking place in a suburban community from this day and age. I like the contrast of things in this new type of community not being as shiny and new and wholesome as one would think.
The ending was definitely a surprise and I liked how things got resolved with Tom’s ability.