The Sound of Undoing


The Sound of Undoing

A Memoir in Essays

Paige Towers

American Lives Series

210 pages


March 2023


$21.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
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March 2023


$21.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
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March 2023


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About the Book

A memoir in essays, The Sound of Undoing deconstructs the way sound has overwhelmingly shaped Paige Towers’s life. Each essay focuses on a different sound, some perceptible—like the sound of a loon call or gunshot—and others abstract—like the sound of awakening. Given a hypersensitivity to noise from which she has both suffered and benefited since childhood, Towers uses these sounds as a starting point for making sense of past events. She reflects on the estrangement of a beloved sister, sexual abuse and assault, and the link between mental illness and noise in her family, as well as nature, religion, violence, and other themes. Experimental in form and provocative in content, The Sound of Undoing also makes use of research on silence, nature and noise pollution, listening, sound art, autonomous sensory meridian response, and the acoustic environment in general. By exploring memories and feelings triggered by certain noises, this lyrical meditation untangles a life infused with meaning through sound.

Author Bio

Paige Towers is a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in Hobart, Washington Post, The Guardian, Harvard Review, McSweeney’s, and many other publications.


"The Sound of Undoing marks the emergence of a bold voice in creative nonfiction. It asks us to turn our collective ears to the cacophonous and the sonorous, the mundane and the sublime. Towers breathes new life into the familiar soundscape of our modern existence, asking us to rediscover the wondrousness of our sound-filled world."—Calabryan Holder, Linden Review

“This book gifted me a deeper awareness of noise—its powers to depress or delight, estrange or connect. . . . Part anguished lament, part rapturous ode, Paige Towers has given us a portrait of overwhelming sensation.”—Gabrielle Bates, author of Judas Goat

The Sound of Undoing is for any person who’s been told they are too sensitive to the burdens of our times. Spanning sister grief, noise exposure, and estrangement from self and society, Paige Towers investigates the echoing possibilities—attuned to both joy and trauma—of everyday sounds. Celebrating the minuscule and the immense in equal measure, this memoir is a real contribution to our understanding of the aural and emotional landscapes of womanhood.”—Kristen Millares Young, author of Subduction

“Towers guides us through her discoveries of sound—its presence, absence, and lyrical implications. But it always comes back to love. This book explores what it means to perceive the world in surprising ways by showing us how we can understand what tethers us to our relationships and hold what we cannot see to the light with faith.”—Su Cho, author of The Symmetry of Fish

Table of Contents

Prologue: The Sound of Drawing
Part 1
The Sound of Cutting
The Sound of Control
The Sound of Awakening
The Sound of a Loon Call
Part 2
The Sound of Undoing
The Sound of Nothing
The Sound of an Imitated Ocean
The Sound of the Mute Button
Part 3
The Sound of a Mimicker
The Sound of an Animal
The Sound of a Whisper
The Sound of a Split Throat
The Sound of the Unsaid
Part 4
The Sound of a Poet
The Sound of a Shot Spotted
The Sound of a Slow Bleed
The Sound of Morning Quiet
Source Acknowledgments