I loved this book. I literally called in sick to a conference so that I could finish it! There's no "chick lit" schmaltz here or superficial gloss -- just great story-telling through time, vivid characters, and a slow build-up to a spare, gorgeous ending. I was so compelled by Stewart's language and prose. I hope that, like me, you'll be drawn in by this lovely book.
I bought this audiobook because I've read (and re-read) "Good Grief," Winston's first piercingly funny and adroit novel. I'd hoped that Winston's second effort would be as rewarding, but it simply fell short of the standard she set with "Good Grief." It unfolded slowly, went nowhere remarkable, but quietly offered a gentle trip through audioland.
Although the characters in "HSS" are likable -- almost too likable -- and the prose creative, the plot of this book meanders so much that I found myself distracted by the many secondary characters, and wondering where the story was going.
Since the plot revolves around infertility and the havoc it wreaks in intimate relationships, I'm certain that Winston navigated her book's emotional geography supremely well (as she did so well with mourning and loss in "Good Grief") -- I don't know, since I've never wrestled with the issues that her characters do. However, I felt myself willing the plot to become more than a "chick lit" story, wanting to cheer on the author. Ultimately, as the last "pages" of denoument were read, I found myself wondering why I'd listened to the whole book.
The book's narrator does a terrific job -- that's the good news. Her crisp, wry reading brings alive Winston's prose, and carries the book along.
I concur with the many 5-star reviews for this audiobook: it's sensational. The two narrators bring an already exquisite story to life. Whoever chose these two talented readers deserves a place in the Audiobook Hall of Fame.
Although the book it's around 12 hours, it unfolded well (only rarely did I feel impatient with its pace). I found myself looking for any excuse to get in the car or to go for a walk, just to listen to another chapter of this book. I was surprised by its poignant treatment of aging, as well as the twisting plot that chugged along to the dissonant ending. Highly recommended!
I loved this book as much for the depth of the characters as for the way that their lives and histories weave in and out together. I also admire the way that McGovern has created a mystery that centers around (and teaches about) autism, bullies, and the lives of special education children. I was riveted, and I was also kept hanging until the story's end (in fact, my only gentle criticism of the book is that it felt like there were many small endings, and that it took a long time to get to the final revelation of "whodunnit"). It didn't feel like a typical mystery, but the tension of unanswered questions created suspense that lasted until the last few minutes.
The book's dialogue, between richly developed characters, stands out. The author has a gift for allowing information and feelings to come spooling out of conversations between the book's characters. It never seemed fake. Even better, the reader of this audiobook did a phenomenal job, creating many different voices to portray the wide range of characters.
In short, a greatly enjoyable audiobook!
This is the first time I've listened to a play, with a cast of four actors (and the laughter of a live audience). I greatly enjoyed this play, and found myself "rewinding" frequently just to hear certain scenes again. The actors are fantastic, and bring depth and life to an already strong script, as two couples come to grips with a dissolving marriage among them. In this short play, each permutation of characters appears -- the women together, the men together, the couple whose marriage has failed -- allowing their history and peculiarities to rise to the surface and become visible. I also appreciated that the messiness of these relationships remains, up through the play's ending.
I'd already read this book in hardback before buying the audiobook (I loved it that much), and discovered that Elizabeth Gilbert's reading of her own memoir revealed new depth, humor, and poignancy.
(Please permit this technical note: If I could have, I would've deducted half a star from my rating on the grounds that Gilbert's voice is low and husky. I listened to this book mostly in my car, and at times her husky voice dropped so low that the reading becomes muffled or inaudible -- or maybe that's just how loud my car is! It is occasionally distracting, but not overly so.)
This "travel" book is actually a tale of Gilbert's stripping away of the obstacles and existential plaque that had suffocated her carefully, but not thoughtfully, constructed life as a wife in the 'burbs. She treats the subject of her awakening and healing with great honesty, self-effacing humor, and a tremendous degree of likability. (I found myself wishing that she lived around the block, just because it would be so much fun to share an evening and a bottle of wine with her.)
Gilbert's description of living (and eating) in Italy for 4 months, then spending 4 months in a Yoga ashram in India, then topping it off with 4 months in Indonesia do capture her environments, and the surrounding cultures. But this is not, strictly speaking, a "travel" book. You aren't going to hear as much about how Italians work as you are about how Liz Gilbert works (but it's hardly a loss). Be prepared to follow the thread of her self-discovery through a combination of woolgathering and self-reflection; be prepared to learn about the spiritual path of her Guru, which Gilbert follows and explains at length in the book's middle section. And get ready to laugh out loud!
In summary, this book will long remain on my list of "Five books I would take with me if I had to live on a deserted island." I hope that others find it as enlightening and inspiring as I did.
I wanted very much to *love* this book. It fell short of my expectation. It was my first introduction to Joan Didion, and she did a very good job of reading it herself. (Can't you just hear the "but" coming....?)
while Didion's book works in both the raw, emotional detritus from her grief and the clinical research studies that she depended on to lead her through the grief process, the word "pretentious" kept coming to mind as I listened to this book.
I say "pretentious" because Didion's constant references to her glamorous literatti lifestyle are very distracting. As one example, she speaks about visiting her daughter in the hospital in LA, and how worried she was about money, and then proceeds to describe the luxury hotel in which she lives for a month.
Didion's mannerisms are also irritating. Every time she references bringing her baby daughter home from the hospital -- which is a LOT of times -- she includes the name of the hospital and the city: "Saint John's Hospital in Santa Monica..." It's a bizarre affectation that grated on my ears and nearly led me to turn off the darn book.
Despite Didion's being in a somewhat different orbit than most people I know, her delicate exploration of grief was done well. It meanders, and criss-crosses time, but I think that accurately illustrates how grief makes people reel, as if there's no reliable context for them to continue their living.
I'm a longtime fan of Chris Bohjalian, and have relished all of his fiction. It's no surprise to me that this book received a quiet reception, since one of its central characters is trans-sexual -- a complicated and mis-understood phenomenon. Bohjalian doesn't shy away from exploring the full range of conflicts and questions that arise when Dana, a male professor, falls in love with Allison in the tiny town of Bartlett, VT -- and then announces that he's in the process of gender reassignment. The complexity of this relationship includes its effects on Allison, a school teacher, and the town's residents.
Allison's ex-husband, Will, and their daughter, Carly, are the other 2 characters that Bohjalian lends equal voice to as the novel shifts perspective over and over.
Judith Ivey has done a phenomenal reading: she uses slight "accents" to distiguish between the multiple characters' perspectives. She also has a knack for bringing Bohjalian's thoughtful prose to life.
Overall, this is one of the most compelling, intriguing books I've iPodded off of Audible. The timing of the story is just right, and the details and texture of its unfolding are satisfying. I didn't want it to end!
The one caution I would grant to possible listeners is that some people are sure to have trouble listening to a novel that so prominently features trans-sexuality. Personally, I enjoyed it because I have several trans-sexual friends and this book is a marvelous portrayal of the breadth of a TS character; it is never sensationalistic. You WILL learn a great deal through Bohjalian's characters, and so I encourage you to take the risk.
It took me a good 30 minutes to let go of my expectations for this book and let it be what it is: a witty exploration of one woman's "help I'm turning 30 and have no life" journey, with Julia Child as savior. It's a plus to have the author read her own work -- if you can ignore the frequent "up-swing" that peppers the reading -- and her observations never get mired in self-pity or whining. Powell has a remarkable ability to be self-deprecating and fetching while she explores a year of difficulties. You learn more about her circle of friends, and her circle of reality, than you do actual cooking. And it works.
That being said, its downside is Powell's tendency to become a bit too self-centered (IMHO), and lose perspective (I can only hope that her brief albeit breezy treatment of 9/11 and the despair of victims' families was meant to be just that, breezy, and not callous). The premise -- the "Project" and its intensity, the ways its demands took over the Powells' life -- is clever and compelling. Eventually, however, I found myself shouting (to my iPod)what it took Powell's husband 11 months to say: "It's only mayonnaise!"
In sum, an enjoyable memoir... if you don't mind the distraction of a 20-Something's navel-gazing (oh yeah: and lots of self-conscious use of the F-word).
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