I've read and liked all of Barbara Kingsolver's work, beginning with The Bean Trees, but found The Lacuna to be a big disappointment. The author neglects many elements of good fiction, including characters and plot, while focusing on history. Her reading does nothing to bring the book to life.
The author succeeds in creating empathy for Dorothy Parker, a very talented but very troubled woman. Her career spans four decades of American history, including the Jazz Age, the War Years and the McCarthy Era, and her life intersects with many other famous American authors. However, the narrator sounds rather bored and snobbish, and pauses often. Increasing the speed helped somewhat.
This is a fast-moving detective story, told convincingly from a dog's point of view, neither too cute or too human. The narrator is excellent, especially in doing the voices of the villains. It makes a poignant case for the adoption of rescued dogs.
This is a beautifully written book, with a lot of depth. Themes such as war, religion and the role of chance connect the stories, which take place in the lives of one family over thirty years. However, I don't think that the narrator, Martha Plympton, does it justice. She merely reads it aloud without assuming the voices of any of the characters. Adult or child, male or female, drunk or sober, nun or college professor, they all sound the same. I'd recommend reading the book, rather than listening to it.
Last Man Out is the taut, harrowing story of the 1958 Spring Hill, Nova Scotia mine disaster which killed 75 men. But there's another twist. Following the dramatic rescue of 19 survivers, who had spent a week underground, an aide to Georgia's racist governor has a brainstorm: publicize the state's fledgling tourist industry by treating the heroic miners and their families to a vacation on Jekyll Island. The media spotlight indeed shines on Georgia when the lone black survivor is barred from the state's segregated facilities. This miner has his 15 minutes of fame, but with unforseen consequences. Melissa Faye Greene tells how the brief glare of international publicity, followed by years of neglect, affected the impoverished community of Spring Hill, Nova Scotia. It's riveting history, very well written and well narrated.
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