"...Shepard's new short novel, Softspoken, is one of his most desolating works yet,
the portrait of a woman trapped by her own indecisiveness-and in a location,
rural/small town South Carolina, where to be trapped in oneself is to become
something inhuman, something less than human, or, like most of the residents
in the crumbling mansion depicted, dead and thus no longer human at all.
Examples of all three conditions are amply and ably presented, in a ghost
story of tremendous force and existential compass. This is Shepard in his
full, fuliginous glory..."
"Shepard is very skillful at correlating outer surroundings with
inner turmoil, and the Bullard house, with its not-quite visible and audible
hauntings, is a perfect mirror for Sadie's in-between state of mind. To
resolve her perceptions of the place and of her life, Sanie steals some of
Will's peyote, and under its influence can see rooms and corridors crowded
with phantoms, most of them Bullard ancestors, and many of those tattered,
optically incomplete. Strangely, though, some of the apparitions reflect
future events, and this ties in with Will's description of a supernatural
vortex co-extant with the house, something greater and more temporally
extensive than any ordinary haunting. Shepard's descriptions of the
multitudinous ghosts are mesmerizingly evocative; he captures the pervading
aura of menace with chilling brilliance; and his final passages, in which
Sanie confronts the consequences of her vacillation and the true measure of
the corrupted vortex, are brutal, challenging, superbly, if ruthlessly,
done. Softspoken is Southern Gothic of a high order, a meditation on the
uncertainty of life and the certainty of death that leaves Poe in the dust."