I really like Dick Van Dyke, so I was surprised by how boring this book was. There's just no meat here, and I don't mean dirt. It read like a series of "this happened then that happened," and I was never drawn into the story. He's a great guy and has nice things to say about everyone, but that does not an engrossing memoir make. As a narrator, Mr. Van Dyke was often difficult to understand, which is a shame, because it's usually more enjoyable when a celebrity reads their own work.
I stuck with this book for the duration, and the story--interwoven stories really--were interesting and well told. The reason it was hard to stay the course, however, was Bill Bryson's performance. I found his voice strange in affect, cadence and pronunciation. His odd manner and herky jerky style were a constant distraction for me. I can't imagine why he was allowed to do his own narration, so I can only assume that he insisted. Too bad, because the book really is worth your time. I'd just recommend you get it through your eyes instead of your ears.
I really enjoyed the parts actually about cooking and exploring its history. Not so much the lengthy sermonizing and philosophizing about 21st century American cooking habits. Yes, it's Michael Pollan, and that's his thing. Nonetheless, the lectures could've been edited extensively without loss of the message. I wish he'd stuck more to his topic and less to his opinions about the topic. By the way, I thought he read his book beautifully and have no issues with the performance aspect of this audio book.
I admit that I gave up on this book several hours in. The story, which is certainly worth telling, is totally obscured by the author's need to reveal his ability to use convoluted language. He never fails to use five words when two will do. As a result, I gave up on learning anything about Stevie Wonder without having to wade through ridiculous prose.
I just couldn't get through this book. Ms. Keaton switches between her own words and those of her mother, which may be easier to follow on the written page than it was (for me) in an audio book. I kept having to mentally rewind when I belatedly realized that a different "narrator" had begun talking. Beyond that, ultimately I found the story boring. As another reviewer wrote, this is the memoir that everyone should write--just not necessarily publish!
I expected to find this book interesting, but I was surprised by how deeply the story of the family pulled me in. The science of tissue culture is interesting and well told without requiring any specific knowledge of the field. But it was the story of the person behind the tissue, the family she left behind and the experience of being in black in 1950's America and having to deal with 1950's American medical institutions and personnel that was truly compelling. The narration is wonderful and adds to the story rather than detracting from it.
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