I loved this book, and listened to it a second time with my mother. It is a book that wants to be shared. My memories of my early years with her were evoked by this book. The narrators, especially "Jack", were fantastic. Initially it appears to be primarily a story about a child--who adapts and flourishes in a truly horrible situation, and then adjusts to an entirely new experience. It makes believable, in a very personal way, children's ability to tolerate and grow as long as they are loved, no matter what the impoverished circumstances they are born to. However, the more profound story is that of Jack's mother, whose adaptation to abuse, deprivation, and loneliness was much more difficult because she was an adult when it began, and became a mother soon thereafter. The gift of her commitment to her child's safe and happy life, under terrible circumstances, is remarkable. The book deserves the accolades it has received, and the narration here is a worthy presentation of it.
I am not a sports fan, but I loved this book. The memories that Lipsyte presents, in such a charming and personal way, make the listening thought provoking and enjoyable. Some of the celebrities he highlights, like Mickey Mantle and Dick Gregory, are best known to baby boomers. Throughout the book, however, Lipsyte brings these folks and their egos and fame into play around relevant and present day issues. His chapter on steroids in sports--then and now--is poignant and humane in part because he presents the users and the issues through the prism of his own continuous use of hormones since cancer surgery decades ago. The chapters of the book can be read in any order, making the book an easy read for a commuter or someone working out. Most are a little more than 30 minutes each. Lipsyte's reading of his own work brings an intimacy to the experience that one rarely finds in books about our heros and anti-heros.
John Lee is an incredible reader, and a perfect choice for this book. There are around 20 first-person narrators in the book, and Lee performs all their voices superbly, reflecting each one's individuality and unique perspective on the happenings in the novel. These characters (some not even human, like the color red) create a rich tapestry that brings to life this period in Istanbul and the Ottoman Empire, with wit and charm, rather than dry historical narration. This is not a light or easy read, but worth the effort. I found it helpful to borrow the print copy from the library, and occasionally refer to it for the names and spellings of people and places.
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