There are some books that are enriched by their audio performance; this is not one of those.
The story is interesting, tracing the history of a Catholic sisterhood that used its convent to protect non-Catholic (Jewish and Muslim) girls and women from the Church's Inquisition, eventually moving them to safety in South America. The author creates a character, a child adopted from South America by Southern Christians, who helps uncover some of the history and the secrets of Los Golondrinos, the Spanish sisterhood.
The performance, however, does not add to the story. Most of the book is narrated in a fake Spanish accent, with some parts in a fake Southern accent. As someone who is familiar with the differences among Spanish, Mexican, Honduran, Guatemalan, and Argentine accents, as well as the differences among various parts of the American South, the narrative voices were fake and annoying.
The narrator also used a high-pitched fake Spanish accent for many of the nuns, especially the older ones. This was even more irritating to me as a listener.
In the voice of a better narrator, or read on paper, this might be a better book.
The story was ok, not one of Coben's best, but the narration was a total snooze. Truly, I fell asleep every time I listened to this. Scott Brick droned on and on. I couldn't listen to it when I was driving! It did the trick for getting me to sleep each night, though.
Coben's characters had potential, but I had to suspend disbelief a bit. Could anyone get into college, yet alone become a university professor, with an assumed identity? Could a private investigative agency cause as much havoc as the one in this story? As with many of Coben's stories, logic was stretched in an entertaining and engaging way.
Pick up this listen if you are looking for the perfect replacement for sleeping pills. It works, and you won't be groggy in the morning!
This is a good story, well written, with lots of plot twists that keep the listener engaged. However, I wish Audible would find better narrators than Scott Brick. This is the second book in a row that he ruined for me. The last book I listened to was read (Brick again) way too slowly and dramatically for the content. This time he mispronounced well-known San Francisco names like Moscone --- jeez, the guy was the President Pro Tempore of the California Senate, then the Mayor of San Francisco, and was assassinated in a famous slaughter that included his ally Harvey Milk, who became a gay martyr. Moscone was a real person, for whom the San Francisco Convention Center was named. Why couldn't Brick pronounce his name correctly? This is really sloppy. Ditto for the neighborhood Noe Valley, which everyone who knows anything about San Francisco knows how to pronounce. It is Mosco-NIE and NO-IE. Take a cab or a Lyft in San Francisco and learn how to say the place names!
By the way, I have never lived in San Francisco or anywhere in the Bay Area, but I know how to pronounce these names.
Time for some new narrators, Audible!
There is a lot to like in this new offering from Wally Lamb, a great contemporary novelist. Well-drawn characters, a compelling story line, and an excellent performance on Audible make it worth a listen. I am still arguing with myself about the quarrels I have with the story line and some of the components of its execution.
One theme of We Are Water is the effects of childhood trauma on adult behavior and the development of one's own family. The two parents, Annie and Orion, each had atypical childhoods. While Annie's childhood was marked by severe trauma in the form of a flood that killed her mother and sister, her father's descent into alcoholism, her abuse at the hands of a cousin, and a long hitch in foster care, bi-racial Orion was never acknowledged by his father, and was raised by a single mother and his Italian-American grandparents. We Are Water focuses on the direct effects of Annie's upbringing, and glosses over the ways that Orion's childhood influenced his distance from his children, his willingness to overlook what was going on between Annie and the children, and the reasons why he chose a career as a therapist. There are some good linkages between Orion's therapy practice, which targets college students, and what is experienced by his own children, but in general, the story is largely about Annie.
Another theme of We Are Water is what we mean when we say "love". Wally Lamb definitely takes me where I want to go with this one---love is unconditional, love is supportive, love is constant. Everyone gets that right in this story.
A third theme of We Are Water is the toxicity of keeping secrets from the people you love. We learn that suppression of emotions and experience have horrible consequences. Orion, as a therapist, is in a strong position to make this connection. Although he is no longer practicing psychotherapy by the last part of the book, he is still the confessor for most of the family.
There were several story elements that I found disappointing or distracting:
• I kept expecting Viveca to do something bad. She seemed overly acquisitive about the Oh family's possessions, overly controlling, and narcissistic. That didn't happen, which was a good thing, but I felt like I had been taken down a road to nowhere.
• The first-person story from Kent The Molester gave him too much credit. I felt that I was expected to sympathize with him, which I did not. Lamb did not have to prove that Kent was a person who consistently behaved badly, but he tried much too hard in We Are Water.
• The Josephus Jones subplot failed to tie in to the story in a significant way. It seemed like a red herring when Viveca didn't become a greedy schemer to get those paintings, as I expected.
• Orion did not need to have such a tragic outcome. I can see where Lamb (and probably his editors!) decided that something needed to happen to force the family to unite and gel. I don't think that was necessary in order to fulfill the story's thematic goals.
• There was an odd scene in which Andrew's fiancee had a conversation with Dr. Laura Schlessinger on the radio.
• The gay marriage subplot could have been better explored. Do Annie and Viveca have a lesbian social group? Why can't Orion be more angry about Annie leaving him for a woman, and yet guilty about having such thoughts? Why is Annie coming out now? Did her lesbianism result from the childhood abuse, or would she have been gay if her family had stayed intact? Did she ever have close friendships or attractions to women during the many years of her marriage to Orion?
• Orion continues to hold onto a traditional concept of faith and religion, even after his life changes and he learns that he must rely on a community of love to care for him. Wally Lamb clearly knows that there are faith traditions available today that do not rely on a powerful and personal God as a higher power, but instead understand that a higher power can be defined as "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts". Much of contemporary Unitarian Universalism is based on experiencing the power of community. Whether he considered it religion or not, I wish Orion had noted that love is a higher power, and that like water, love can fill all the nooks and crannies of our souls.
A note on the performance: All the actors were good for the parts they read, and it was nice to hear the author read part of the story. Good job, Audible!
What happens when a pair of successful performance artists have children, what becomes of those children, and where does it take the art? The Family Fang explores these premises with insight and humor, while remaining true to the questions it poses.
The Fangs are about as successful as performance artists can be, and when they have children (Child A and Child B) they include the children in their performance pieces. The children go along with it, as children do, but as they grow up they begin to question their participation and occasionally add their own touches, or resistance, to the pieces.
We get to know Annie and Buster as adults who have been damaged in foreseeable ways by their odd family life, and we also get to know the Fang parents as they struggle to make sense of their art without their children's participation and support.
There are plenty of deeply discussable topics---what can you ask of your children, how does this example of children working in their parents' business compare with children who work at their parents' retail business or gardening route, how do we handle our children leaving us, what does it mean to be damaged by our parents? My favorite among them is, of course, "WHAT IS ART?" which is a topic I could discuss forever.
This is an engaging story, but the performance is outstanding and I imagine that the book is much better in the audio version than by eye-to-brain. It is one of those special performances that makes it worthwhile to be part of Audible. I'm led to figure out how to search Audible's library for other stellar performances. This performance is all the more impressive because it is all done by one voice actor, rather than an ensemble.
Thanks, Audible, for introducing me to this novel.
This is one instance when I wish I had read the book in paper form rather than listening to it. The performance, especially the male narrator (George K. Wilson) really detracts from an interesting and compelling set of intertwined stories. Wilson reads so slowly that I checked my iPod to see if it was set on "slow" instead of "normal". Nope, it was just Mr. Wilson, who reads every syllable with plodding deliberation. I love audiobooks, and in many cases I find the story is enhanced by the performance. I'm posting this as a warning! On the other hand, it works very well as a sleep-inducing reading; just don't drive while listening!
Some books just don't work in the audio format, and others are best when read aloud by talented voices. The Help is one of the best audiobooks I've discovered. The stories of the maids of Jackson Mississippi who raise the white children, cook all their meals, and hold them together unfold perfectly in the voices of Aibeleen, Minnie, and the young Skeeter. The Skeeter character could have been insipid, but she shines through as a real 1963 "coed" who questions the social rules of Jim Crow not because she learned to in college, or by reading philosophy, but because of her love for the woman who raised her. The tension of resolving mother love vs. caretaker love is explored with empathy for the children and the maids, and even for some of the 24 year old girls who find themselves married and involved in the Junior League.
It is also a story of the power of stories, and the power of gossip, and the difference between the two. It was a surprise to find that some maids had only good stories to tell, while most others had a mix of good and bad.
How do we resolve the relationships we have with people who are in a different culture or economic class, or both? The Help confirmed my belief in listening with kindness, respecting the humanity of each person, and speaking truth to power, and to each other.
I listened to this entire book in three days, which meant that I stayed up too late and slacked off at work! Choose this book when you have the time to live in Jackson Mississippi over a few days. If this were a book, I would say it was one I couldn't put down. In audio format, the richness of the reading made it even harder to stop.
Report Inappropriate Content