65 y/o father of two sons. Married 25 yrs. Audible member for 8 yrs. I can hardly read books with my eyes any more. I love reviewing.
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.
These are short stories by the author (and the narrator) of Beautiful Ruins. That was a great book and performance, and so is this, although the format is completeIy different. I once thought that T.C. Boyle was the master of the American short story: he still rules his roost, but Mr. Walter covers another territory, indeed. Most of these stories are about people who are what is often called "down and outers" in the Northeast of the U.S. Seattle, Spokane and Portland are the locales. The stories vary wildly from just a few pages to one which has three chapters. I found myself laughing so hard at many times that I had to take breaks from the book, to give my laugh muscles a rest, and to make the pleasure last longer.
There is no more doubt in my mind that Edoardo Ballerini is the finest narrator we have today. His range is so remarkable, his tone and his ability to shift among characters so seamless, his facility with serious fiction, funny stuff, and everything in between: I truly hope you enjoy him as much as I do. I hope he continues narrating for many many years.
It is really not possible to summarize these stories other than what I have just said. The stories are not unified, other than being generally sited where they are. Some are tiny, and some are so large that they encompass a new, futuristic world in which dinner at a good restaurant costs $5000. The big banks are now called Starbucks Financial Services and KFC-B of A. Society has been over-run by people called Zombies, who have become addicted to a drug which turns them into frightening monsters who eat cats, and yet are being trained to work at Starbucks (where a latte costs $60).
Before I read Beautiful Ruins I had never heard of Mr. Walter. Now I will look closely for anything he writes, whether Mr. Ballerini narrates it or not. Of course, my preference for the narrator is obvious. I can't compare him to any other narrator, and so I won't. I understand that Mr. Walter has become something of a cult figure in the world of people familiar with his work. I understand this immediately. The breadth and depth of his inventiveness and creativity are breathtaking. Just the ability to make the reader LOL repeatedly: this is something that very, very few writers can do. Mr. Walters makes it seem easy, and each moment of humor is delivered so perfectly by Mr. Ballerini that I just don't want to hear anyone else trying it. If you enjoy creativity, inventiveness and humor, you will love this audiobook. I guarantee it.
Mr. King has written a lot of stuff that I just cannot read. But, if it's not a horror story, and if Frank Muller is reading it, you can count on a really good time. Mr. Muller remains the best narrator who ever lived, and he shows us the adolescent lives of Mr. King's characters with depth and humor. I have heard it said that Mr. King wrote for Mr. Muller's voice: if this is true, this book is a good example of why he did so. It's a little bit dated by now, and teenagers don't grow up quite so quaintly (at least, not here in California). Nonetheless, Mr. Muller is so convincing that the reader happily suspends disbelief and gets washed along with the boys. I can't imagine an audiobook lover not loving this book.