This book is the culmination of Heinlein's Future History series, unifying his earliest published works with his Lazarus Long novels. As the full title suggest, the book tells the story of Maureen Johnson, mother of Lazarus Long, from her youth in the late 19th century to her old age in one of the alternate future that Heinlein created for the stories he wrote in the 1940s.
Unfortunately, it's also one of his weakest. Heinlein is controversial for his depiction of what strong female characters should be, and in "To Sail Beyond the Sunset" he pulls out all the stops. There are sex-positive polyamorous women; I've met a few. But none of them are like how Maureen Johnson is depicted: not only accepting incest, but actively promoting it among her own children.
Frankly, there were points while I listened that I was embarrassed for the reader, Bernadette Dunne. She's the best female audiobook reader I've heard (I hope it isn't sexist to say so). However I cringed every time I heard her read Maureen Johnson's opinions of what it means to be a woman, on the character's desires for her father, and (what was probably worst of all) how raising 17 children was merely an exercise in household management. Dunne reads all of this in the tone of the character, but I couldn't help but think about Dunne's internal reaction as she did a professional job as an audiobook reader.
I also cringed at the few passages in which Heinlein indulges in some right-wing educational and political philosophy. But since I'm one of those bleeding-heart tax-the-rich liberals, you should take my reaction with a grain of salt.
Setting that aside (and it's a lot to set aside!) "To Sail Beyond the Sunset" still shows Heinlein near the peak of his skill with words. He paints his future and alternative worlds with an economy of phrase that many of his contemporaries never mastered.
If you'd like to listen to Heinlein's Future History, I strongly recommend other audiobooks: The Green Hills of Earth and The Menace From Earth; after that perhaps Time Enough Fro Love; all these books are prequels to this one. For the best Heinlein, try listening to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Job: A Comedy of Justice, or Stranger in a Strange Land.
I recommend you only come to this one after you listened to other works by Heinlein, so you can accept how some of his fantasies got ahead of reality near the end of his life.
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