I've listened to hundreds of recorded books over past twenty years. This is my favorite. I was never much of a Stephen King fan. This changed that. I am, however, a huge admirer of actor (and reader) William Hurt. As far as I know, this is only recorded book he's performed.
The book starts with "last summer" of young boy's childhood in the late 1950's. And Hurt's reading of every boy, girl, lonely parent, friend, scumbag and guardian angel is absolutely real. Stephen King also reads a central portion of book and he's just fine - Funny as hell in fact, when recounting "his" college years in the 60's and amazingly touching - when reading the chapter about Vietnam Vet/Street Beggar 'Blind Willy'.
It's not horror, not really fantasy - although there's a supernatural thread that runs through the story, which took me a little off-guard when it first appeared, but I completely got caught up in. It's one of many layers in this amazingly well written and performed book. They should all be this good.
Given the famously freakish source material; and the fact that the author MADE MUCH OF IT UP! This simply should have been so much better.
I am perhaps being unduly harsh because I mistakenly thought this a work of real historical biography. I had first heard about these famous reclusive brothers in my childhood and was excited to learn the "real story" about them. But from early on, this book hit so many inauthentic notes; both philosophical and "chronological" That I was prompted to STOP LISTENING and check it against the source material. It is here that I discovered the intended formula was anything but accurate or even meaningful, in my humble, snarky opinion.
Therefore, I confess my extreme disappointment comes from "flawed" expectations. I guess I'm writing mainly to forewarn any other potential listeners who may come to this book equally unprepared.
To be clear, I was aware of Doctorow's significant reputation - but only very indirectly through film adaptations of his earlier books. However, I would still argue that such a literally talent, under no pretentions of telling the "real story" could and should have made this a far more provocative or at least moderately entertaining story.
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