Did the person who wrote the "publisher's summary" even read the book? Definitely not. First of all, it is not about "Dede" (or Debbie as she is really called in the book), it is really about Evelyn (who is NOT Debbie's aunt. No relation) and her life/death/family/town/bowling ball. There were NO mormon missionaries, only Lutheran pastors from Denmark who were being sent on a tour of the USA to get them out of their Bishop's hair. It is terrific Garrison Keillor, I give it top marks. However, those looking for Mr. K's lightheartedness and endless chuckles, need to know that this one is dark. Terrific , but you will be crying more than you are laughing. As a former Midwestern Lutheran I certainly did. Very real characters. Very well done. Read by GK, as no one else could really do it justice. Check a synopsis somewhere else, though since Highbridge Audio couldn't bother to get someone to write one properly.
It would be nice to rate the first 2/3 of the book and the last 1/3 separately. Four and a half stars and then one star. It felt kind of like fourth grade...you work really hard on a story, it is going well, then you get tired of doing it and go for a bizarre ending to get out of having to think anymore. Kind of like, "and then the aliens landed and all the pilgrims were eaten by carnivorous plants." If this book were discussed in a Thursday Next (Jasper Fforde) novel, they would probably say that the author had bought a cheap and ridiculous plot device to get out of finishing it. What a waste of interesting characters and complex issues. Could have been great.
I would have given it 3 stars for fluffy chick lit, but since it is on the bestseller list, it enters a new scoring category and barely makes 2 stars. I did actually finish it, but only because I wasn't home and couldn't download something else. The accents were indeed lamentable and pronunciations were sometimes laughable. The dialogue would have scored a passing grade in high school creative writing. I was surprised at the end to find I didn't really care about any of the characters at all. I cry for just about any story that calls for gratuitous emotion, but was definitely unmoved about all the characters in this book. I agree with another reviewer that it would be fine for a Goodwill purchased beach book, but not for real money. This one will not stand the test of time. Nor will it ever find a place on my book shelf.
I have lower expectations for audiobooks. I expect them to help me pass the time driving, cleaning, sorting laundry, running on the treadmill, etc. This book did a good job of that. I didn't have to think too hard and the story was benign. I don't think I'd ever recommend it to anyone as a book they must read as there wasn't much story, the characters were underdeveloped, and there wasn't near enough Jane Austen. However, it was pleasant, I kept listening, and it didn't last too long. If you put it in the 'light read/listen' category instead of with the likes of Jane Austen it is missable but decent. There were times that the narrator was irritating but not enough to avoid anything else read by her.
It may be that I have heard Alan Bennett's reading of Pooh for 15 years and I am used to it, but I couldn't get past this reader's voice for Pooh, Christopher Robin and Piglet. At that point I stopped. We needed to replace our Alan Bennett tapes and I couldn't find new ones so I thought this would do. I realize Pooh is a bear of very little brain, but the reader not only gives him no brain at all, but makes him sound like a brainless old man with a sore throat. It is a voice much more suited to Eeyore. Christopher Robin sounds much too old and Piglet gives a little farty noise (that is supposed to be an oink) every time he speaks. That said, the reader's plain narrator voice is very good. As that was the only sample audible gave, I thought that I would enjoy the rest of the voices. I'm off to find another Alan Bennett.
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