Barbara Kingsolver is a great writer, and this is her greatest book yet. She writes with such intelligence, knowledge, and compassion, obviously works hard at research, and - in this book especially - brings her characters and a continent to life. I read the book years ago and was VERY excited to have to chance to listen to it. I remembered the characters, but didn't remember a lot of the story, so I got to appreciate it all over again.
The most amazing aspect of this book is that it's written in five distinct voices. From Rachel's wonderfully mixed metaphors and word confusion (for example, she extols America's practice of single marriage vs. Congo's multiple marriage system and says "we call it monotony!") to Leah's intelligent palindromes and poetry, each voice is unique. Knowing this, I worried that a narrator might try too hard to differentiate them - and I HATE it when narrators do child voices, so it was a risk! This reader did a GREAT job through pace and inflection - subtle, but effective.
Granted, I didn't get very far into it. What I listened to was far-fetched and silly.
I didn't think the narration was particularly bad. I think the narrator did the best she could with the material she was reading.
All of the above, plus irritation.
One drawback to listening to (instead of reading) this book is that every time David Miscavige (the current head of Scientology) is mentioned by his last name only (hundreds of times!), my split-second reaction was "now WHO is Miss Caviage?" before snapping back with an "oh yeah, that guy". I spent too much time dwelling on other ways the name could have been pronounced (or misprounounced) to prevent that. I wish the author had just referred to him as "David"! But that's just me!
What a fascinating book!
My son, a ceaseless searcher and student of philosophies, told me a few years ago that he had looked into Scientology, but they didn't welcome him into the fold because he didn't have any money. I'm sure glad they turned him down! After reading this book, I had to wonder if they also recognized that he was too intelligent to swallow what they offered and could end up being another whistle-blower.
Some of the stories in the book are so disturbing, I wonder how Scientology is still "in business" today! People have died, others have been imprisoned, and others driven to insanity by this "religion", yet people still join and drain their resources for what is on offer. By the way, the current head of this tax-exempt "church", David Miscavige, has a net worth of $50 million!
If you wonder about Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and other celebrity Scientologists, they're all in here! (And I still love them just as much - especially Tom!) Trivia Challenge: What celebrity visited a Scientolotgy center and loudly scoffed at the philosophy and saw it as a money pit that could make you insane. Hint: He attended with his Scientologist girlfriend, Peggy Lipton (of the Mod Squad). Give up? Elvis Presley! Long live the King!
I did enjoy the use of multiple narrators, all of whom did a pretty good job.
Only because I got a lot done while I listened!
I've listened to several Jodi Picoult books, and liked them all pretty well. They all had flaws that were difficult to overlook, but they were, well, long, and I often choose books by the length. A good book that motivates me to exercise and do mundane chores is a godsend, and if it's long enough to get lost in, all the better!
My main complaint about this book is the ending. Once we reach the denouement, (which is easy to guess long before we get there), the book ends abruptly. It felt like Ms. Picoult just ran out of steam (or perhaps that was the publisher breathing down her neck). She just tied it up in a pretty little package which left me wondering (loudly, since I was walking on the beach, and was drowned out by the crashing waves) WHAT HAPPENED THEN? I don't want to spoil it for anyone, so my questions won't make sense, but here they are: Why was it so easy to believe THAT's what really happened? Why didn't this information come out sooner, considering the "house rules" applied to both brothers? Were there any consequences for the deed, or just - oh well, accidents happen? Frankly, it made me a little angry, since the "deed" at the core of the story was avoidable and inexcusable, and suggests a pattern of behavior that just didn't get addressed.
I find Asperger's syndrome fascinating, and loved "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime" so much that I'm a sucker for a book that include Asperger's or autism as a feature of the story. But I felt like this book did some injustice to those affected by the syndrome. It just didn't feel very believable, and I think could make people LESS understanding toward people with the syndrome and the challenges their families face.
Most problematic was the "life tutor", who was SO good at her job until one particular event changed her from a caring, knowledgeable, understanding "pre-professional" to a heartless, uncaring, typical teenage girl - in a heartbeat. Were I affected by this syndrome, I would be outraged, I think, by this portrayal for many reasons.
The novel comes complete with standard "happy ending" elements that are just too hard to swallow: the struggling, hapless guy who comes through against all odds (and with no pay); the beautiful relationships that develop in spite of everything; the harried divorced mother who manages to balance life with the demands of a very needy child pretty well with only child support and the small income from a little newspaper "help" column, and when necessary, enough money, resources and accommodations to make everything end well. All very unrealistic to me!
So, read it for the length, and because Jodi Picoult is a pretty good writer, but don't expect much realism, justice for the DEAD victim, or a satisfactory conclusion.
It's hard to say I "loved" anything about the book, but it certainly reinforced my dedication to boycotting Wal-mart at any cost. I'm more convinced than ever that Wal-mart is as culpable as Wall Street for the state of our economy.
What I didn't realize before was how Wal-mart tramples (and sometimes bankrupts) suppliers in their pursuit of "Always Low Prices"; the suppliers (and their employees) bear the brunt of the ever-lowering prices, NOT Wal-mart. I hold Wal-mart responsible in large part for the loss of American jobs to China (and elsewhere), and the transition from REAL American jobs to Wal-mart jobs. I credit Wal-mart for the fact that almost EVERY product (excepting the most exclusive brands) on the market now is junk, designed to be replaced every few years. Standards overall have declined to the lowest common denominator because that's the only way other stores can even begin to compete with Wal-mart. It used to be that appliances would last decades; now you have to buy a Sub-Zero refrigerator or a Viking stove if you want an appliance that will last more than a few years! (The story about Levi-Strauss is one good case in point.) I used to think it ridiculous to buy extended warranties because I was sure large-ticket items I bought would last forever; now they seem a waste of money because you can practically replace these items when they break down in a few years. Thus, I hold Wal-mart responsible for further separating the Haves from the Have-Nots.
My favorite illustration of this "anti-democratization" concerns lawn mowers: A Wal-mart shopper might avoid buying a Snapper mower because of its cost, but he ends up replacing the Wal-mart- purchased mower every couple of years because they're cheap enough to be considered "disposable". So the old mowers end up in a landfill, while the "expensive" Snapper starts season after season, and ends up being the "bargain" over time. So the person able to afford a Snapper ends up spending less in the long run, just as the wealthiest people pay the least for credit and (perhaps) the lowest taxes! Wal-mart is Robin Hood in reverse, helping the wealthy get wealthier on the backs of the poorest. (This theory of anti-democratization is my own extrapolation: if it offends you, don't blame Charles Fishman!)
I remember many years ago when Wal-mart first came to my town in Georgia, they picketed outside Publix because Publix sold items not made in America. Today what percentage of Wal-mart merchandise is made in the USA? Sam Walton must be rolling in his grave...
My great fear, now that Wal-mart is plunging deeply into the organic market, is that organic producers will be forced into the same race to the bottom that so many other markets have. One day the ONLY people to enjoy natural health will be those who live on what they can grow themselves, or wealthy enough to buy their food from "boutique" farms and ranches. Since it's daunting to think how anyone can produce EVERY food they need, and store or preserve it from season to season, once again it will be just those wealthiest who will have access to abundant natural health. Thanks again, Wal-mart!
1) I apologize for my fervor and the length of this review. I'm sorry if I sound like a communist.
2) I was really struck to learn how the earliest employees' purchases of Wal-mart stock made millionaires of those who held on to it, compared with current purchases of the stock, which don't even make good toilet paper.
3) I doubt that the Wal-mart race to the bottom which leaves the (organic, hormone-free, pastured, local and sustainable) "cream" for the wealthiest 2% can be reversed, thus restoring the world's health and economies, but boycotting Wal-mart makes me feel like one TINY drop in the bucket which I can easily provide! If a LOT of us did the same, who knows? When it comes to making purchases, our best votes are with our feet and wallets!
4) Please, read this book!
I'm glad I bought this book, because it convinced me that eliminating wheat (and other carbs) from my diet is my best route to better health. The accompanying PDF is useful, especially for the recipes it contains, but I ended up buying the e-book in addition to the audio book to aid my understanding of the information. There are so many facts, figures and websites mentioned, that I found it useful to have both. My mind tends to wander when listening to books that are so data intensive, so I found that I was constantly backing up to listen to sections over (and over). I've listened to the audible book several times, just to remind myself WHY I shouldn't eat that plump, delicious bagel, but when I want to explain to someone else why I'm just eating the cream cheese, lox and tomato, it helps to have the BOOK as an aid to explaining how damaging the wheat can be.
When I learned that eschewing wheat products can protect me better from breast and colon cancer, osteoporosis and broken bones, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and insulin associated conditions like diabetes than drinking milk, using artificial sweeteners and taking medications and supplements. And I was thrilled to learn that FAT is not my enemy!
It must be really hard to read a book like this well! I thought the performance was a little overly dramatic, but the poor guy had to do something to prevent the reading from being dry and dull.
I highly recommend this to anyone interested in nutrition, trying to lose weight, or living with MOST conditions considered "chronic". According to this book, eliminating wheat can improve or even cure everything from Alopecia to Schizophrenia. There is enough information and evidence in the book to make it worthwhile to eliminate gluten for a month just to see if the conditions improve. My motto: "It can't hurt, and it just might help!"
And I'm not, so I didn't. I probably should just stay away from books that portray people so much younger than I am! The characters came across as self-involved and shallow, casually adulterous, disrespectful and very poor at parenting (even though the matriarch was a renowned specialist in the parenting field). The description of the story sounded interesting, but there were no characters that I could relate to - or even LIKE!
No. A group of self-absorbed adult children who don't seem to care much for each other spending a week together "mourning" their father, under some duress from their "newly-bisexual" mother just didn't float my boat! I don't think my peers would particularly relate to the story or characters either.
The narration was fine, but not remarkable. The fact that he read it TO me made it possible for me to do something worthwhile as I "read" the book, so it wasn't a total waste of time.
I'm just glad it was on sale: I didn't waste a credit on it, and only a small amount of money!
This book was so engrossing! I got a lot done during the many hours I listened to the book; scrubbing, weeding and long dog-walks were my excuse to keep listening until it was done!
Ann Rule's books have been my guilty pleasure for years. I don't really go for true crime books EXCEPT for hers. The level of detail is so fine that I wonder HOW she is able to get so close to the participants in the stories she tells. And she tells the stories with great respect and regard for the victims. She must be a remarkably compassionate and sincere woman.
The story itself is almost unbelievable! If it were fiction, I’d probably toss it aside, thinking it was too far-fetched. How could so many smart, attractive women fall for the likes of Brad Cunningham?!
I’ve read that Ann Rule is not so interested in the “big” stories like Casey Anthony or OJ Simpson; instead she likes to find stories that might not otherwise be told. Thank goodness for that! Casey and OJ stories are ubiquitous; this story, like all of Ann Rule’s stories, is well told, fascinating and might not have been told had Ann Rule not been interested in the case.
I think outrage, fury and frustration would better describe the reactions I had while listening to the book. I wonder, if someone observed me during my dog walks, if it would look as if I were mad at my dogs!
My admiration for Barbara Kingsolver is boundless! Her body of work is so diverse, and each book so painstakingly researched and crafted, I wonder how she can get it all done in a 24 hour day, since I assume she's also the perfect wife and mother, not to mention farmer and producer of most of the family's meat and vegetables!
This book, about a beautiful phenomenon-cum-natural disaster, is well written, riveting and full of science. Full of my new "expertise" on Monarch butterflies, I was astonished to find a Monarch in my N. Florida backyard while I was listening to the book! It was injured and unable to fly. It contentedly crawled onto my finger and up my arm. As I carried it to the Beautyberry bush, I held it to the light and realized how absolutely perfectly Ms. Kingsolver had described the creature down to the texture of the wings. It was a remarkable experience.
The book's title is perfect, because it captures not only the behavior of the Monarchs, but also of the main character, and her flight "from pillar to post", and eventually to a different life, and other characters as well - maybe all of them! Let's just say multiple metamorphoses took place! I love the way Ms. Kingsolver's compassion and kindness come through, even when her characters are in situations where they HAVE to inflict pain on another to get to that next stage.
I could see how some might be a little put off by the author's reading of the book - her voice is not typical for a recorded book reader. But her intelligence and intention shine through and to me, it felt very personal having someone I admire so much read me my bedtime story!
It made me cry more than once, and laugh often, as is typical for Barbara Kingsolver's books.
Whoever compared this book to David Sedaris should be ashamed! This silly book is NOTHING like the witty writing of Mr. Sedaris! It's hard to believe a former HR professional for a "faith-based organization" would use the f-word so gratuitously. I have no problem with the word itself, but her use of the word seems forced and "trendy". There's a huge difference between David Sedaris' self-deprecation and this writer's. Ms. Lawson's writing feels forced, narcissistic, mean and whiny, while Mr. Sedaris' writing flows effortlessly. A mentor of mine once told me that the more effortless writing seems, the more effort went into it. David Sedaris' use of the "mot juste" is a clue to the hard work that goes into his writing; Ms. Lawson's writing is just what you'd expect from a blogger: quick and careless. Both writers report horrors from their childhoods: I sense deep affection from Sedaris for his unconventional family; Lawson just comes across as bitter.
Her delivery was perfect for the book: whiny and full of herself.
Years ago I worked at Barnes & Noble and used to suggest to customers that they SHOULD choose books by the covers! I've rarely been disappointed in a book I chose because I loved the cover. This book has a GREAT cover, which is why I bought a copy when I found it on sale recently at B&N. I was fascinated by the introduction, then by the story, and the characters. I bought the audible version because it was just taking me too long to READ the book (my reading time is the 15 minutes before I fall asleep each night. It took me two weeks to get through Kafka's "The Metamorphosis"!) Also, I got a bit confused by the action once the group got "lost"; I needed to concentrate on it a bit more, I thought. Listening to it turned out to be a great way to finish it, and I'll be able to listen again in a couple of years and enjoy it all over again.
Amy Tan excels at character development, and her stories are always interesting, well researched and plausible - I could easily believe they are non-fiction. And this book was, at times, REALLY funny! I laughed out loud several times - always at something Bibi said - she was a delightful character! I didn't love all the characters, which I prefer; all I need is ONE to root for, and at least one to dislike.
Unlike some other reviewers, I really liked Amy Tan's narration. Some of the accents she used were not very good - but I forgave that immediately. After all, she is a WRITER, not an actor.
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