Hongmei has a secret admirer. Secret stalker might actually be a more apt descriptor. She receives emails from a mystery person recounting her day, what she wore, how she acted, who she was with, everything about her current life. Rather than share these emails with her husband, Glen, a well respected English professor, she keeps them secret and engages in a correspondence with this mystery person, this secret talker. She ends up sharing with this secret talker things she has never shared with anyone: her past in China, the beginnings of her relationship with her husband, her issues within her marriage, and her current emotional and mental state.
Hongmei’s reactions to and engagement with her secret talker were the best aspects of the novella. While there is tension about who the secret talker is and what all they might be capable of, ultimately, Hongmei’s internal struggle is the main focus. The push and pull Hongmei feels regarding this mystery person drive everything. At times, Hongmei is disgusted with this mystery person for dangling little details about her life in front of her but remaining in the shadows and with herself for sharing so much of her history and energy with this person rather than her husband. Other times, Hongmei is absolutely enthralled with the feeling of release of sharing about herself and her life as well as the thrill of having a secret. It was fascinating to watch the secret, digital relationship she was creating affect her physical state and relationships.
When I finished this novella, I had a moment of “Whoa, very cool ending. That was great.” And then I sat with everything that had occurred for a little while. That initial feeling of everything coming together as really wonderful and brilliant way very quickly soured. Events and revelations made less and less sense the more that I thought them over. The final reveal definitely detracted from the overall efficacy of the previous mystery.