Megan Miranda’s fifth novel for adults, Such a Quiet Place, is hazy and buoyant with suspicion and explores intimate, female friendship. This quiet place, which of course isn’t quiet at all, is Hollow’s Edge, an insular, preplanned community by a lake. A year and a half after the unsolved murder by carbon monoxide poisoning of Brandon and Fiona Truett, Ruby Fletcher, the prime suspect and their dog sitter, returns to the neighborhood after 14 months away and an overturned conviction.
The scene of the crime, Hollow’s Edge, is Oz, its own land of pretend. A land of meetings by the pool and things unsaid. “Here, to our neighbors, we revealed a side of ourselves that we kept hidden from our colleagues and acquaintances. The person we were at five a.m. on garbage day; the hours we kept; the lives we led. We were closer to being a family than not, knowing each other’s schedules, and visitors, and insecurities,” says narrator Harper Nash, whose true voice seeps in slowly.
Harper moved to Hollow’s Edge in her 20s after attending Boston University. There, she met her husband Aidan, who left her suddenly and recently; then, Ruby moved in. Harper met Ruby when they were in their 20s, working in the admissions department at the local college, now they’re 30 and 25, respectfully. Harper, “always trying to decrease animosity, smooth over tension,” and a little bit in love with Ruby in a platonic way, allows her to stay. The associations’ private message board spikes with activity and resentment and she receives an anonymous note, “YOU MADE A MISTAKE.” From there the plot spirals and things start to rot and rise.
We are immersed in Harper’s nervous life on a precipice and her somewhat accidental detective work as the initial murder is solved, but before that, is followed by another killing. All the while, the neighbors judge, seethe, gripe, and plot, some aloud, some behind closed doors, and some on the message board. Of course, we learn that the murder victims were not a beloved couple after all. Harper says of the Hollow’s Edge community, “We did not have altruistic intentions; we were not such good people. But we cared enough about our own status not to let the property go to hell, bringing us all down with it. We were all dependent on one another here.”
The most intriguing thing about Ruby’s return is what it knocks loose in Harper’s mind. Up until Ruby, she’s been on a “narrow”, “preordained” path, attending her father’s alma mater, moving to a seemingly sleepy place with Aidan, and falling into an interim job. Even her recent fling was lackluster. Mac “found the way to expend the least amount of energy for a relatively comfortable life.”
Now, Harper can’t unsee what she’s seen nor satisfy her appetite once Ruby has presented exactly what she’s hungry for: wildness. “It was so easy to grow complicit to the desires of Ruby Fletcher.” “I wondered then what I really wanted–maybe, for the first time in a long time, I really considered it.”
Fans of Miranda’s work will appreciate how she once again makes every moment smoothly slide into the greater plot. Her writing is clear and organized, but also, always containing a “simmering underneath.” She captures those little moments of uncertainty in life, pressure points, that can sink you. The bottom-of-the-ocean feeling in your gut. The master of things coming undone, of undoings, brilliantly, with an always steady hand, shows how many faces deep relationships contain, and how there should be so many words for friend. In the end, Such a Quiet Place is a fully satisfying tale of cooled and boiling intimacies and unveiled freedom.
Such a Quiet Place
by Megan Miranda
Simon & Schuster; 352 p.