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You Have a Very Soft Voice, Susan

A Shocking True Story of Internet Stalking
Narrated by: Jill Monas
Length: 12 hrs and 39 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (27 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"You Have a Very Soft Voice, Susan is quite possibly the most twisted and surreal case of stalking I have ever encountered. Well-written and gripping. Just when you think it can't get any more bizarre, it does." (Patrick Quinlan, Los Angeles Times best-selling author of All Those Moments

This is not a typical story of internet stalking. It is an unusual case of friendship and deception so pitiless and unyielding that it opened a door to Hell into the author’s life. This is an unforgettable story for today’s digital world driven by social media in all of its permutations and cruelest forms.   

The story begins with Susan Fensten’s online search for her father’s family, a search that soon turns into a two-year frightening odyssey of internet stalking and threats when a posting on a genealogy message board brings her into contact with what she thinks are distant cousins, but what turns out to be a sociopath. 

Through email correspondence with her new “family”, evidence of mental illness, dark family secrets, a struggle over wealth and bizarre criminal histories emerge. She quickly becomes the focus of sexual obsession and suspicion, and her life is completely turned upside down. She soon becomes the target of dozens of frightening characters including real verifiable convicted sex offenders in an elaborate cyber-hoax that includes threats of kidnapping, murder, rape, torture, and cannibalism. 

Remarkable in its complexity, this story of internet stalking is also a sinister and shocking journal of madness. Described by the FBI as a case “in a category by itself”, this book is a story about the internet, the search for family, a friendship, and a journey into the underbelly of American crime that raises questions about safety online and pushes the boundaries of our perceptions of what is real and what is not.

©2019 Susan Fensten (P)2019 WildBlue Press

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

So, you want a book to mess with your head?

I saw a post on Instagram not too long ago that stuck in my head: "Adult life is like checking both ways before crossing the street, then being hit by an airplane." I would say that is a pretty apt description of the experience of reading this book.

"You Have a Very Soft Voice, Susan," had been on my wish list for a little while. It had popped up as a recommendation after I read another book, and the creepy cover art grabbed my attention right away. (I am not a devotee of the whole "don't judge a book by its cover" cliché when it comes to actual books and their actual cover art... a weird title or interesting jacket is usually what I look for).

I have been off my feet for a week and dying of boredom, and finally decided to go ahead and read it. And I absolutely could not stop. Know those books that you probably shouldn't read before bed? This is definitely one of those, but I couldn't help myself.

I am not going to get into plot details; the synopsis available should give you an idea of whether the subject matter is of interest to you or not, and I hate spoilers. The less you know going into this story, the better. I really enjoy true crime, as well as unusual memoirs, and this happens to fit into both categories. If you are also a fan of those two genres, you'll know that sometimes they can be pretty formulaic. Not this book. Every time you think you've got the story worked out, it takes another turn. The fact that this actually happened to a real person is both flabbergasting and horrifying. These events took place in the early 2000s, before everyone was putting every detail of their lives on display through social media. One can only imagine how a case like this could unfold now.

Don't let the audio quality deter you from reading this. I very nearly stopped and returned the book just a few minutes in, but I am really glad that I kept going. Full disclosure: the book sounds like it is being read by a woman in a small metal shipping container with a 1990s era tape recorder, and it's off-putting to get accustomed to. I am not at all certain that the tinny quality was not an artistic choice by the production team, a sort of metaphor for the author's predicament.

I absolutely recommend this book, with the caveat about the audio and with the forewarning that it may be one of the most unsettling things you will ever read.

7 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Very compelling story.

The only complaints about this book is the very poor recording quality and bad continuity. Check out chapter 24 (27), ends abruptly mid-sentence. The recording quality is very poor because of acoustics in studio, but intermittently. The introduction is monotone and hard to take, but it does improve as the reading progresses.

5 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Tedious

I'm not generally a fan of books written by the person who experienced the incident because they can't be neutral and just tell the story. This book was no exception. It mostly consists of emails exchanged between people and the author's thoughts on things.

The sound quality for the audiobook is poor. It sounds like the narrator is sitting across the room from her microphone and her voice conveys no emotion. It was difficult to listen to.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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This is the WORST recording Ever!!!

While the 'story' is sadly lacking the physical recording is unbearable. I purchase 3 - 4 books every month so after a decade I've listened to many many titles. I got about half-way through this travesty and simply cannot listen further. It's going back. It's very irregular - in that the narrator sounds as if she's in a deep dark cavern: echoey and indistinct. For no apparent reason - I think it was - Chapter 17 where the sound quality completely changed, as if narrator further stepped into an empty closet in that cave while reading. Totally muffled and lowered volume in addition to the former difficulties. By that point there also
needed to be a heavy hand with editing, as the account was repetitive and seemingly unnecessary in describing the partying and cyber-stalking. You have been warned: Don't waste your credit!