Nina’s Whisper Review: The Art of Being Loved

From the beginning of Sheena Howard’s fictional novel ‘Nina’s Whisper’ you know you’re in for a series of emotional jolts. It’s a story unflinchingly told by a woman who subconsciously, yet desperately goes down a rabbit hole of destruction. But will she pull herself out and where will she find her strength? 

Told in a nonlinear narrative Nina in the first chapter wonders how did she get to this place? Howard is relentless in her storytelling of Nina desperately holding onto her baby Chasten, escaping her abuser Page. The alcoholism and violence are physically and emotionally palatable and you’re rooting and yelling out loud for someone to help mother and child. This domestic violence situation isn’t new. Nina is a successful black woman and meets an enigmatic woman in Page. Their relationship is filled with small things in the beginning. Nina believes she’s lucky to have someone like Page in her life. But the signs that are there are ignored. Then the narcissistic Page reveals herself and begins to drink more to the point where she gets liquor delivered to the house. Not even leaving their home the violence increases to the point where a violent eruption occurs, and Nina is fearful of so many things. Still, you root for her. 

The lesbian relationship between Nina and Page is necessary in telling this tale. Abuse between people of the same gender, in this case between two women in a romantic relationship are more common than we may think. For Nina she fears that she won’t be understood. How could someone as well-off as her, at least on the surface fall for someone who would strike her? It’s the same emotional beatdown which is done by an abuser regardless if they’re a man or woman. The psychological impact is similar. They hit or berate you, make you believe it’s your fault, then you beg to take them back or let you back in. It’s a monstrous victimization where Howard helps us sympathize and has us reading the book from start to finish in one sitting. Her fast-paced prose is relentless. 

The novel is bookended with ‘Year 4 2021’ where we see the impact of what Page has done to Nina on page one to the last chapter. We get a clue as each section starts with a quote from Buddha to Frederick Douglass as to the framing of each chapter. But that won’t help you. Even though you may have an idea of what each episode contains emotionally you’ll be wrecked in a good way by this narrative. 

This lesbian love story is one that you will find surprises you. Not by who is being loved but why they’re being loved and eventually love for oneself. That may be one of the best life lessons Sheena Howard subtlety teaches us, that we are worthy of loving and being loved.

About Patrick Hickey Jr. 12726 Articles
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Master Jedi and Grand Pooh-bah of and is the author of the book, "The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews with Cult and Classic Video Game Developers," from leading academic and non-fiction publisher McFarland and Company. He is currently the Assistant Director of the Journalism Program at Kingsborough Community College and is a former News Editor at NBC Local Integrated Media and a National Video Games Writer at the late He has also had articles and photos published in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Complex and The Syracuse Post-Standard. Love him. Read him.

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