When I sat down to read Speak, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Familiar with Paddock’s work by way of Postcards from Gliese, I suspected it’d sucker-punch me right in the feels. I wasn’t disappointed.
I think we should start with what this book is like, or maybe who might have written it. It reads like a Gaiman novel – the way the prose rolls of the page feels very much like The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It’s urban fantasy, but not with vampires (sparkling or otherwise): Speak is about people you might know, in a town like that small one you vacationed at last year, doing marvelous things.
The story starts with Ellen in the firm grip of her ordinary life. She’s got a father who makes military school instructors look like Barney. Her mother has weathered the storm for years, and learned to sail under the clouds and avoid conflict. Ellen’s brother Peter is the Golden Child™, and for those of you with siblings who can do no wrong, you know what this means. Despite her low-wage job, she’s got two excellent friends, and an uncanny amount of luck leading to her adopting a stray dog, Emmett. It’s told in a diary-style, but with an immediacy I thought only possible in recovered-footage suspense films.
Emmett, for his part no fool, takes some convincing on the adoption front. Ellen woos him with fast food takeout, and stands as his protector against the world. It’s not hard to see the urge we have to look after the defenseless and the helpless in her actions, but the real surprise is how Emmett saves Ellen from a fairly horrific event. The dog has telepathy, which puts the government and big pharma on Ellen’s trail. She goes on the run, because the alternative is giving Emmett up to become a lab animal.
I found myself cheering her on and berating her in equal measure. Ellen could take a class called, “Life Choices: How To Make Bad Ones.” She stands up to bullies, but makes shady megacorps her business partners. While finding true love, she fumbles the catch on more than one level. The tale is a fun ride of emotion, and you can’t help but want to take Ellen out for a coffee. This isn’t because I want to know why she made the good and bad calls, but because Paddock’s writing of Ellen is inspired. She’s funny, insightful, and deals with all the things women of the world have to on a daily basis without really breaking stride. For all this is a story about Ellen and Emmett, it felt like a high-five to everyone working long hours, paying their dues, and dealing with the imbalance in society.
I mentioned the feels earlier, and this story is no exception. It’ll leave you bittersweet with its wonderful ending, feeling joy at the victories alongside sorrow for the fallen. Ellen and Emmett are worth it though, and I’d encourage you to check it out today. Easy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.