Here is a lovely book about unlovely people - flawed people, living fairly mundane lives. Ever wonder about the motivation that led a person to make a poor decision with terrible consequences? That is, in part, what this novel explores.
The well-developed characters - from a woman who must bring her child to work when her regular babysitter is hospitalized (it happens to many of us, but in this case, 'work' is a strip club) to a man who honestly believes that what he is about to do as one of the hijackers in the 9/11 terrorist attack is a holy act - are believable if not likable. The multiple storylines are thought-provoking and are, for most of the characters, stories of growth, change and redemption in sometimes surprising ways.
Mr Dubus doesn't overlook detail nor does not dwell on or exploit the horror of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. When he writes so intimately from the female perspective, one could forget the author is male. While the character of the terrorist is not a sympathetic character, he is drawn so well that we come to understand that he is a multidimensional human being, capable of love and fear, craving the approval of his family and his spiritual leaders.
The narrator, Dan John Miller, is to be commended. His well-modulated voice conveys just the right amount of emotion without inserting himself into the story. His accents - particularly when he's reading the role of the southern men - are genuine. I plan to sample some of the other books he has narrated.
As a straight ally and as a person who loves well-written literature, I am grateful to Irving for this literary gem, one that tenderly explores bisexuality and transgender issues with love and respect. I appreciated the affection and acceptance shown by the most loving characters and the struggles the well-developed characters face. The account of the AIDS crisis years is painfully honest and unromanticized. The conclusion perfect. There were moments in the book when the narrator's energy flagged, yet he was always spot-on when he was reading dialogue.
The author's accent makes it very difficult to understand his English narration and I listened to as much as I could stand to - but it seemed to me to be all about him. Nothing he had to say was very interesting.
Fannie Flagg is funny! She spins a good yarn, her accents are authentic and this book has plenty of heart-warming moments. "I Still Dream About You" doesn't have the sociological heft of "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe" but it is an enjoyable book. I think it was probably better as an audiobook than as a stand-alone novel and certainly is a great book to listen to while recovering from an injury or taking a walk. None of the male characters are very well developed and the plot is a little windy, but several of the main female characters are interesting and show realistic growth.
I wanted this to be funny and it is, in places. But once the listener absorbs that Justin Halpern's dad is a radiologist who uses foul language, this is nothing much. Dr. Halpern's comments aren't all - or even mostly - gems. I wouldn't waste money on this book.
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