Title: The Price of Silence
Author: Roger Conlon
Publisher: Zoesbooks, Ltd.
“Silence is a word for tolerating and accepting unfairness. My father did not get a good deal after the war and was offered no help. The internalisation and repression of so much grief was a factor in his problem with alcohol,” author Roger Conlon states in his fictionalized autobiography, The Price of Silence.
This thin paperback book of ninety-seven pages depicts an altered, grainy photograph of a silhouetted bridge at sunset on both covers. With no author biography or reviews, there is a simple Mark Twain quote on the back jacket. Having many punctuation errors and no profanity, the book would be appropriate for adult readers due to its discussions on dying, death, alcoholism and drugs.
Conlon shares his thoughts and opinions in this autobiographical novel that mainly embraces his Catholic upbringing and relationships with his alcoholic father, his stay-at-home mother and several siblings, two of which have died from cancer.
With only three chapters, the first contains stories of his parents’ lonely marriage that ended in separation, his father’s repeated refusal to turn away from the bottle, his older sister and brother’s illness and death, followed by his own mother’s death and how the writer tries to deal with mortality. Switching back and forth often in thirty pages between first and third person, being the main character of Steven, the reader easily gets confused and lost in the author’s own need for identity, solace and purpose of life.
The second chapter is only six pages long and is a tribute to the life and death of his sister Samantha and brother Terry through the use of a bereavement diary and poems. Here Conlon lists a fifteen-point manifesto for life as a reminder to himself and others to cherish the moments each of us are given on this earth.
The final chapter, which consists of sixty pages, is mainly a pseudo interview between a person named June and his made-up character Steven over beers at a bar, discussing the book’s contents. Intertwined in it are the more interesting yet repetitive stories about the author’s college days of political uprisings along with pot smoking, his vocations including being wrongfully terminated for whistle blowing and standing his ground as a restaurant waiter, and his endless love of family. He abruptly ends the book with three lengthy letters to his deceased mother, sister and brother, yet never actually finds closure of his father’s alcoholism that so disrupted the family.
This book probably gives Roger aka Steven the peace and purpose he needs to move on in life in dealing with his family’s dynamics. However, due to the constant jumping back and forth in the story telling, the repetitiveness in different mediums (example: the interviews restating the first chapter), the reader is left empty, perhaps realizing that he or she too has similar and familiar family memories and issues. In retrospect, one may ponder if the book really is about the price the author paid for being silent or not at different periods of his own life and how he has dealt with and accepted it.