I am a 65-year-old psychologist, married for 25 years, with two sons who are 25 and 22. I love reviewing the books and the feedback I get.
You might not expect a story set in Southeastern Mississippi to be so poignant and so
completely involving. (I apologize to all Mississippians). The title refers to the method in which
children are taught the spelling of their state's name. However, the story and the characters here are so thoroughly, so brilliantly conceived that the book holds your interest in a spellbinding way. Virtually any other book will find that this one is a hard act to follow. The primary characters, Larry Ott and Silas (who is known as 32) have a story to tell that draws you in and grabs you by the brain and heart. I searched for Tom Franklin's other work, and was disappointed to find how little there is. Very hard to make a living as a writer these days, no matter how breathtaking your talent is. I can rave about other books, but I can't rave hard enough to do this one justice. The two men have intertwining life stories that encircle each other in a way that constantly surprises you. Justice, that wonderful construct (in the abstract) follows them for twenty or thirty years of their lives. I won't spoil the plot or the nature of these two men for you: the delight is in your own discovery. The secondary characters are also extremely well drawn, although the women are less so than the men, as we have come to expect, even from the best of our male writers these days. One of the women turns out to have an absolutely critical role. I will say little more, except to tell Tom Franklin, if he happens to be reading, to bear up and be brave: his talent is almost matchless. We are out here reading, and we are waiting for him to write again.
The book upon which the movie was based, this is an astonishing feat of fiction writing. Most of us have seen the movie, I imagine, but listening to the marvelous Joe Mantegna tell the story lets us know that Mario Puzo wrote all those incredible scenes that Francis Ford Coppola turned into one of the greatest movies of the 20th century. Listening to the book gives us so much more detail about the Corleones and their fellow Mafia families. Of course Coppola had to leave out much of the book in order to make the movie(s). Even through the third movie in the cycle, there is still more enjoyable detail here. It is impossible not to see the faces of Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall and the rest of the actors. In my view, the actors enrich the book. Even when you know what is coming, as in the scene where Michael shoots Solozzo and Captain McCluskey, the background and all the planning that lead up to the scene in the book will just grab your attention and hold it. Very few movies are a match for a great book. This book is so monumental in how it taught us the story of immigrant families and their struggles to adjust to life in the United States that it informs our understanding of many other immigrant stories. Joe Mantegna is so great at this that it is really hard to imagine any other narrator reading it. The feel of New York is also a wonder in Puzo's description of it. You see Don Corleone's opposition to joining the Solozzos and the other families in the drug trade, and you think, how principled he is, not what a monstrous gangster he is. This, again, is a feat of fiction writing that may never be surpassed. Sit back and enjoy one of the finest audiobooks you will ever experience.
From Sea of Love to Clockers to Lush Life, Richard Price is a genius at helping us see the extraordinary world in which these people live. I am a forensic psychologist who evaluates the defendants, works with the lawyers, and sees in therapy the cops who appear in Price's novels. I listen, and I know these people. I know their conflicts, their burdens, their passions, all the complicated influences that propel them to crash into each other. I almost lost him in the first interrogation of Eric Cash, which went on way too long, but if you hang in, you get completely caught up. I had never heard of Bobby Cannavale before, but his reading is so thrilling that he bears a little bit of comparison to the giant of this field, the sorely missed Frank Muller. At the beginning I feared this might go on too long; at the end I wanted it to go on for days and days.