My husband and I often disagree on politics, so I wasn't sure how it would be to drive across the country listening to a story about Pakistan, and about American involvement in the conflicts of the area. We both loved this book. We were captivated by the story and intellectually engaged by the ideas here. Gruber's characters make every argument imaginable for and against various political positions, violent and covert operations, and religious practices and they do so in ways that make it possible to regard even those characters with whom one disagrees as sympathetic.
The story is packed with philosophy, religion, psychology, anthropology, and political theory, yet it is not weighed down by them. All the talking works in this action thriller; in fact, it is hard to imagine the story or the character development without it. We have to hear from the characters in order not to dismiss them as "the other" when they do horrible things.
The book is read very well by Neil Shah. The cast of characters is as large as a 19th c. Russian novel so it's possible to be confused sometimes, and Shah maintains different voice tones and accents well so that you can recognize who is speaking.
The Maisie Dobbs books are a little fluffy but not so much that you feel you are wasting your time. The interaction with post-war realities make them thoughtful. This one seemed to have a bit too much going on--a girl whose story is never really all that central to the plot, attempts on Masie's life that are not really tied within the story to the person who we are supposed to believe is responsible for them. The narration is good but not great. (It would be helpful, for instance, if the man we have come to know as "Maurice" in the earlier books were not called, "Morris" in this one.) Even so, I'll keep listening to the series. I like the main and supporting characters, and the stories of England between the World Wars are very good.
The book is amateurish in style and cliche-filled (the narrator actually describes the central character at one point as weeping with "sobs that came from somewhere deep within her"). The story was ok, but one whose mystery I figured out in the first third of the book. The good guys (and girls) are appealing. The bad guys (and girl) are over-the-top bad. If you need ambiguity in a novel to keep you interested, pass this one by.
The reader is too tentative and speaks unnaturally. For instance, she emphasizes the word, "to" in ways that we never do when actually talking to one another. She also drops her voice in ways that make the main character (Mallory) sound unsure of herself. I won't listen to another audio book by this reader.
My Sister's Keeper is wonderfully well read by as many different voices as those narrating the story. The writing is clever and engaging, with only a few odd (unbelievable) plot twists: would a mom being sued by her daughter really choose to represent herself? What are the odds that the attorney for the plaintiff and her guardian ad leitem would have been first loves for one another in high school and then not seen each other until this case, some 15 years later?
Even so, the story provides for the most part a believable look into the workings of one super-stressed family as they deal with childhood leukemia and the implications of having had a "perfect match" baby in order to save a toddler's life--only to find out that one after another life-saving measure is required of the younger daughter as both girls grow into teenagers. The 13 year-old who sues her parents for "medical emancipation" is a perfect mix of child and adult, naive one moment and wise beyond her years the next. In this way, she's a thoroughly believable 13 year-old.
The ending is less than what we expect after such good storytelling throughout the book. It reads as if the editor were on the phone to the author saying, "We need those last 20 pages." Too many loose ends wiped away by a deus ex machina event.
In spite of this, I'd spend the time listening again, if I had it to do over. My Sister's Keeper is thoughtful social commentary and a good story at the same time.
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