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Fiction Psychological

The Listeners

A Novel

by (author) Jordan Tannahill

HarperCollins Canada
Initial publish date
Aug 2021
Psychological, General, Literary
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Aug 2021
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  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2021
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  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2021
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A propulsive literary page-turner about a family torn apart by a mother’s obsession with a sound that no one else can hear

One night, while lying in bed next to her husband, Claire Devon suddenly hears a low hum. This innocuous sound, which no one else in the house can hear, has no obvious source or medical cause, but it begins to upset the balance of Claire’s life. When she discovers that one of her students can also hear the hum, the two strike up an unlikely and intimate friendship. Finding themselves increasingly isolated from their families and colleagues, they fall in with a disparate group of people who also perceive the sound. What starts out as a kind of neighbourhood self-help group gradually transforms into something much more extreme, with far-reaching, devastating consequences.

The Listeners is an electrifying novel that treads the thresholds of faith, conspiracy and mania. Compelling and exhilarating, it forces us to consider how strongly we hold on to what we perceive, and the way different views can tear a family apart.


About the author

Jordan Tannahill is a playwright and filmmaker currently living between his hometown of Ottawa and London, UK. His work has been presented in theatres and festivals across Canada and internationally. He won the 2014 Governor General's Award for Drama for his book Age of Minority: Three Solo Plays and was shortlisted for the prize again in 2016 for Concord Floral (also a recipient of the 2015 Carol Bolt Award). Tannahill's book Theatre of the Unimpressed: In Search of Vital Drama (2015) was called "essential reading for anyone interested in the state of contemporary theatre and performance" by The Globe and Mail, and is on the curriculum of several North American universities. Tannahill has been described in the press as "the future of Canadian theatre" (NOW Magazine), "the hottest name in Canadian theatre" (Montreal Gazette), and "the posterchild of a new generation for whom 'interdisciplinary' is not a buzzword but a way of life" (The Globe and Mail).

Jordan Tannahill's profile page


  • Unknown, Scotiabank Giller Prize, Canada

Editorial Reviews

"The Listeners starts as a little hum in your ear and ends up blowing the top off your head. A deeply plausible, funny, horrifying story of a journey right off the rails." — Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of The Pull of the Stars

The Listeners is one of those rare novels that entered my soul, rearranged my brain cells and then my world view. Tannahill writes with the heat and wisdom of a God.” — Claudia Dey, author of Heartbreaker and Stunt

The Listeners is breathtakingly timely. It’s an enigmatic story of 21st-century melancholia motored by sentences at once propulsive and erudite (that beautiful synthesis). Everyone’s going to be talking about this book.” — Billy-Ray Belcourt, author of A History of My Brief Body and the Griffin Poetry Prize-winning This World is a Wound

“I loved this book. Tannahill is such a skilled prose stylist that this book manages to be both a page-turning unravelling of a family and a manic, fully-alive monologue of a woman going over the edge.” — Zoe Whittall, author of The Spectacular

"The Listeners is a breathtakingly, breathholdingly good novel from one of the most original writers in this country. Tannahill serves up enormous ideas in delicious slices. What’s truth? Who do we trust? Is skepticism better than belief? He has a playwright’s ear and a director’s eye. I didn’t so much read the novel as watch it unfold. The Listeners is breathtakingly, breathholdingly good." — Ian Williams, Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning author of Reproduction

“Tannahill has written an engaging, shocking and hilarious story about how a woman's search for deeper meaning leads to an entire town being in crisis. It is a testament to the revulsion and horror an ordinary person can inspire when they decide to simply peek outside of the box.” — Heather O’Neill, two-time Scotiabank Giller Prize-shortlisted author of The Lonely Hearts Hotel

“[A] compelling consideration of the power of sound, and also of how easily and thoroughly an ordinary life can go off the rails, this novel is a true page-turner.” — Winnipeg Free Press

"The Listeners is a sharp, tense, and extremely readable novel" — Quill & Quire

“A story for our conspiracy theory-driven times.” — Postmedia

“Enigmatic and provocative, “The Listeners” is apt to stretch and warp its readers’ own perspectives, as a funhouse mirror for our times.” — The Montreal Times

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