Jenna Lamia is a terrific narrator. Period. So, she could read the phone book - using a different voice for each entry, and it would be easy to keep listening. I wish I could give her 10 stars.
The story is sweet, the characters are sweet, the moral is sweet. It's sweet. It's just not terribly compelling .. there are not many complexities to the story. You meet CeeCee Honeycut when she is 12 years old, and she recaps how much she has had to deal with, taking care of her mentally ill mother. That piece is heartbreaking and the most compelling.
When she goes to live with her great-aunt Tootie, life gets a lot better for CeeCee, and you basically watch her learn how to let go of the past. There is no major climax here - just a series of events, told through CeeCee's perspective, over the course of a summer. It's really not a bad story, however if I were to have read it in text, I imagine I might not have picked it back up for long periods of time in the process of reading it.
This is a very slow listen/read. The story moves very slowly toward the end, which was not all together satisfying. Things you should know: the narrator takes her time with every syllable and sentence. That might not be so bad if the story development moved at a faster pace, which it does not.
This is also not a book where there are happy characters - not one character is happy, and there are really no life-lessons learned to grow from. It's a mystery at it's core, which comes together through the many different people in the town who touch it, yet the human connections are not deep or satisfying in any way.
I recognize that all of my critiques boil down to personal preference - I am ok with slow-building stories if they lead to something remarkable - however this one does not. I am ok with flawed, sad characters if there is something for me to learn from hearing their stories - and here, there was not.
I didn't realize when I purchased this audiobook that I had read the book years ago. Normally that would not stop me from listening --- in this case it is a GREAT story, Nora Roberts does a terrific job of bringing all the characters of this small Alaskan town to life .. and Alaska herself is a beautiful character in the book. Unfortunately for me, the narration was downright dull. It lacked inflection when needed, it did nothing to honor the personalities of the characters .. about 1/3 of the way in, I decided to contact Audible for a refund.
I read this book immediately after Gods in Alabama (Rose Mae in this book was a minor character in Gods) - and I give a lot of credit to the author for showing us how different one story can be based on someone's perspective. The Rose Mae in Gods in Alabama was NOT the same person in this book, yet she IS the same person. Without spoiling the story - we got to revisit two specific scenes from Gods and see them from a whole new perspective. Kudos to the author for that.
I *adored* Gods in Alabama and Grown Up Kind of Pretty. Those stories incorporated many characters and kept moving between characters to weave a story together. This book concentrated on one character (Rose Mae Lolly) - and a good percentage of the book is Rose living in her own head. She's as flawed (if not more) as the characters in Joshilyn's other books - fleeing her life as Rose Mae to be "Ro", then someone else completely -- and in the course of one paragraph, she will be Rose Mae one sentence, then Ro another, then some else another ... I get that she is trying to find out who she is, however this style of writing did not do it for me.
I was bored at some points during the book, but kept listening to see how the story tied together. In the end, I missed the depth that her other books had - this book, although deep in the development of one character, left me wanting for more layers with more characters.
The story was as good as I would expect from Joshilyn Jackson - I adore her style of writing. She includes mystery without making it a mystery novel, romance without making it a romance novel .. she somehow weaves so many components into her own unique style. The characters are flawed but likeable - this is my #1 "like" of hers. Joshilyn narrates most of her own books, but did not narrate this one. If I had not listened to others previously, it might not bother me - however I do prefer her narration to that of this narrator. I feel JJ incorporates more flavors into the characters she narrates for - however it would not stop me from recommending this audiobook to others.
I already miss the characters, and I just finished the book. The narrator (and author!) did an amazing job of capturing the nuances of each character - I felt like they became part of my life. The story was part mystery, but not so much that you did not know what was going on. You learned what you needed to know, when you needed to know it. My favorite part about the story is that the characters are flawed, and you love them more for each of those flaws.
I saw another reviewer called this "Southern Chick Lit", which I liked. I'll also add "Intelligent Chick Lit".
The narration was excellent. There are so many characters, yet the narrator got every single voice very specific and played each part perfectly. Only odd part: The main character is in his 30's and the narrator sounds much older. It took a while to get used to that. Otherwise - he was a superstar.
The story was very good .. I enjoyed how it made you feel like you were "in" on what was really going on .. but ... were you???
I noticed how the main character was in his 30's, but the way he talked about "making love" was very .. square. I am in my 30's, and I do not know any single people who are as square when they talk like that. It did not detract from the quality of the book, it just stood out to me.
Sidebar: interesting listening to this story in 2012, when it takes place in the 90's. I privately enjoyed hearing about the dial-up computer, or noticing how much easier cell phones would have made things.
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