Listener Since 2007
I have been a devoted fan of John Irving for decades. He has the rare talent needed to wrap hard issues in literate laughter. In One Person is Vintage Irving. His signature symbols and character types are all present. As in his earlier books, from Garp through Twisted River, Irving continues to address socio/political controversies thoughtfully and fearlessly.
The themes in this book remind us of Robert/Roberta the pro football player defender of Nurse Jenny, of Dr. Larch, the non-practicing homosexual who gave women choices and orphans second chances, of Frannie who learned how to live after gang rape, of Owen who tried to understand his religious parents as he lived out his own dream and even of the twisted multi-generational hatreds in Twisted River. And bears, of course.
It is set in a private boys (originally) school in New England where we are reminded of elderly professors freezing in the snow and of warm, padded wrestling rooms, and a year in Vienna. And while it is fun to encounter the archetypes from his previous books, the social and political questions still remain to be explored and confronted. As he carefully built his arguments for questioning the “status quo” opinions, social norms, natural morals and blind prejudices of earlier generations about prostitution, abortion, sexual orientation, women’s rights, racial justice, child abuse, the handicapped etc, he again argues for Questioning and questing and for sympathy. In Irving’s words, don’t categorize me before you even know me. He asks for tolerance, even for tolerance of the intolerant. To all of this, add Irving’s tragicomIc writing genius and his story telling skills and we have another thoughtful provocative John Irving book. It’s great!
As other reviewers have noted, this is a poignant coming-of-age novel. Also there are elements of mystery and suspense. It should appeal to readers of all ages, especially YA readers. I recommend it highly.
The book also provokes questions about people who are already grown-up. Where are the adults in the lives of Addy, Beth and their Cheer Squad? Why are young girls assuming (correctly) that they can get in their cars at all hours and not be in trouble with, not even be missed by, their parents. Is Coach Colette ever concerned about the very real, potentially life threatening, danger in some of the routines she allows these kids to train for? Sharing alcohol and cigarettes with her students is not appropriate, but involving her student in her extramarital affair is totally unacceptable. Coach needs an adult in her life.
Abbott reminds us that beneath the bravado, the trash talk, the sexual experimentation, there is usually a fragile child trying to make it through some tough years. What is left when both the parents and the in loco parentis are missing.
The writing and the narration are excellent. The cover is extraordinary.
The subject is repugnant. Just to know that children are subjected to such depths of physical and emotional pain and turmoil creates a lethal level of anger and fury within us. However, the descriptions of the inner life of this girlchild can give us the impetus to confront this cycle of children giving birth to children.
At an individual level, from where comes the inner voice within some children that says there is a better way to live and drives the determination to pursue it. In Hassman’s book, Rory Dawn Hendrix hears this voice. She is the child of an unknown father and her 15 year-old mother, who was the child of a 13 year-old mother by an unknown father. In too many cases, the father and/or lover of the mother is the father of the new girlchild.
Rory’s inner voice comes from an old, tattered Girl Scout Manual. She knows that other girls do not live like she does. Books impact lives. There are other factors that reinforce her resolve. She has three older brothers who broke away from the life of booze, gambling and petty crime. She has a librarian and a couple of teachers who recognize her high level of intelligence. She has a grandmother who protects and cares for her during her early childhood. The owner of the bar where her mother works is a decent guy who tries to protect her.
As a retired university professor, I came to know some of these young people who were survivors who heard this inner voice and succeeded. This is an interesting book. I recommend it.
This is an enchanting fantasy for adults, charmingly written by an astonishingly young new writer. It is philosophy woven into a tapestry of magic and fantasy. The narration is excellent.
The characters are adroitly drawn with talents and personalities that keep the reader hovering between belief and denial. Maybe, just maybe, magic really does exist. It speaks to the wistful, enchanted child that still lives within each of us and reveals the philosophies we have built as we mature.
It is a lovely listen that you will return to many times. Enjoy!
This is a real page-turner. If you like a good suspense story, you will want to read this one. For a first novel Elizabeth Haynes has written an awards winner. She handles dialogue like a veteran writer. Her choice of time technique to tie major strands of the plots together is effective and fits the elements of the story perfectly. It is especially well suited to portray the development of the psychoses of the two primary characters.
In addition to being a really good read (listen), it aroused my curiosity about the mental/emotional conditions suffered by Catherine and Lee. I knew almost nothing about OCD; I did not realize how painful and destructive it is. The descriptions of the behaviors of Lee raised questions read about too often in news reports about the impact of the constant high level of stress has on police officers and their families.
A good book poses questions, offers something to think about and entertains. This is a good book. Enjoy.
Are some people simply “amoral,” neither moral nor immoral? Are there people who truly believe that their wants and needs justify any action, even murder, if it is required for satisfying their wants?
Teenage fraternal twins, Dell and his sister Berner have a father with this outlook. After the father is “pushed” out of his Air Force career, although with an honorable discharge, and is unable to hold jobs for which he considers himself highly qualified, he needs money. So, he robs a bank and a man is killed. He implicates his wife and both are sent to prison.
The twins are left with $500, fears of being sent to orphanages, very little time for decisions and their mother’s plan for them to be cared for by the brother of an old friend in Saskatchewan, Canada. Berner takes the money and runs away to live on her own. Dell is left to be sent to Canada. Ford addresses how seemingly single decisions can impact generations of lives.
Fifteen year-old Dell faces life in a strange, cold, hard environment, living in virtual solitude in an “overflow shack” among strangers. His saving grace is a decision he had made when he was younger. He loved school and learning. He wanted to learn everything in the world. He grows in maturity and in confidence as he learns to live within himself and his circumstances. He learns to adjust to his new life, where there is no school, and still hold on to his decisions to go to school and learn someday. And then he is confronted by an event beyond his control.
He is forced to make decisions that should not be faced by a fifteen year- old. He is drawn into the life of of another totally amoral man. Arthur simply does not think of his actions as being immoral or moral. He simply acts as required to get what he wants. No anger. No animosity. No hard feelings. No regrets. Same as leaving small animals as roadkill.
Richard Ford writes thought provoking books. This one also has suspense and interesting (for someone who shivers when the temp drops below 70 F)information about living north of even Montana.
It is a compelling read (listen) with an excellent narrator. I recommend it.
Do not be misled by the title. This is a novel. It is about generational families and their ways of surviving when uncontrollable events threaten their ways of life. The book was first published in 1912. It is set in the last quarter of 19th Century. The too big to fail financial houses in that era had names like Cook, Vanderbilt, Gould, Morgan etc.. The newspaper headlines then might have appeared in today’s Wall Street Journal. This was the period after the ending of the Civil War and at the beginning of the Great American Expansion to the West; a period marked by unrest, social change and financial turmoil. As always in periods of change, there are great opportunities for the building of great fortunes for those with the required intellect, insight, and discipline and for the fortunes accumulated in the past to melt away as new players and rules enter the game.
The main characters are in Philadelphia with financial contacts in New York City, Boston and other commercial centers on the East Coast. The triggering event for the story was in the great Midwest: The Great Chicago Fire. The destruction of the financial, commercial, transportation and manufacturing districts triggered a financial panic for banks and securities houses from Chicago to Wall Street.
Dreiser uses this setting to develop and illustrate his classic tale of love, money, power, politics, greed, lust, broken homes and prison time for the weak and for the strong. It is the story of an intellectually gifted young man who is rapidly rising in the financial and social worlds and is dealt a staggering blow when he cannot get the resources to allow him to stay afloat during the panic triggered by the Great Chicago Fire. Dreiser shows how in times of crisis the character of people is revealed, whatever their rungs on financial, political and social ladders may be. The tale he tells is compelling and is as relevant today as it was in 1912.
Theodore Dreiser is an American Classic writer and this is one of his best. I recommend it for the writing and for the narration. It is a great read (listen).
This is not a typical love story. When the opening paragraph of a story references Friedrich Neitzsche, we may conclude this is not going to be light, easy reading. Kundera is a new author for me. I like to learn something about the background of a new author; I find I can better understand where the writer is trying to take the reader (listener) if I know from whence he comes. (Thank you, Google.)
Milan Kundera was born in the Czech Republic in 1929. He grew up in the Balkan area in the aftermath of WWI, the German Occupation in WWII followed by the Russian Occupation, rebellions and subsequent uprisings. He emigrated to France in 1975. His life has been long and intense and gave opportunities to gain wisdom and a wide overview of life.
The story is built around three major characters and Karenin, a dog: Tomas, a successful surgeon in Prague who is an unabashed womanizer with a wife and son; Tereza, a young student working as a photo-journalist during the turmoil in the Balkans who falls in love with Tomas; and Sabina, a free spirit artist with a faithful lover while she is Tomas’ mistress. Around these characters, Kumdera weaves his philosophical questions of irrevocable, never to return periods of life and eternally returning cycles to be repeated over and over again.
His writing is lucid and compelling. There is love in many forms, from erotic sex to the love of a beloved dog. And, there are points to ponder as we examine our own experiences. His novel is worth the thoughtful hours required to follow him.
Surely there is no more exciting and pursued emotion than “being in love.” Flaubert’s classic MADAM BOVARY reminds us how fleeting and dangerous this emotion can be, especially after lovers become satiated and then bored with too much familiarity. To his credit, considering his time period, he also shows us, that prostitution is an equal opportunity behavior for both sexes and arranged marriages do not always result in learning to love.
From the beginning we know that the marriage of Emma and Charles is doomed from the first. Emma’s convent education had exposed her to the fine arts and books about handsome knights on shining white horses pursuing beautiful ladies while Charles’ education, arranged by his mother, was limited to memorizing his way through the required tests for a medical license. His mother had arranged his marriage to an older widow and Emma had returned home to her father’s farm when she left the convent. Charles was captivated by a beautiful young woman and Emma was looking for a way out of the dull boredom of farm life. And, so after the death of his wife, they were wed.
Boredom can be a great motivator for the immature. Emma seeks to relieve the boredom by pursuing the excitement of “falling in love” and of spending money. Sound familiar? Charles loves his beautiful young wife. Both end up in tragedy.
Flaubert is an outstanding writer. His descriptive prose is a pleasure to hear. His book is better appreciated by mature readers than by high school seniors and college sophomores. It is a fine listen with a very good narrator. Enjoy!
The full title is “THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS FROM THE WORLD TO THAT WHICH IS TO COME.” It was published over the years 1677 - 1684. If, to be designated as a “CLASSIC” requires universal themes and enduring availability, then this is a real “classic.” It has never been out of print since 1677. Wikipedia calls it a “religious allegory.” Allegories abound.
This was required reading in my high school advanced English Lit course in 1950. I encountered it again in a sophomore literature course in college. I found it long, dull and tedious. I learned to appreciate Bunyan’s creative writing flair when I LISTENED to it! (Audible where were you when kids needed you?} Can such a book even be taught today? It is definitely about religion -- Christian religion. Do students have enough familiarity with Christianity to recognize these allegories? I don’t know. I do know that Audible’s spoken words are like Mary Poppins’ “spoonful of sugar,” it makes Bunyan go down with appreciative smiles.
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