I could not put this story down. It was well-written, with many insights and details, and the narration was very strong, especially the narrator's lowered voice rendering of the protagonist's private thoughts.
The protagonist in this story, Alex, takes his family through the harrowing experience of surviving a pandemic. Alex is more level-headed, observant and wise than everyone else except his loving CPA wife, and certainly more than the neighborhood neanderthals, those who came after the pandemic and those who were already there. The problem is that Alex is ahead of everyone else simply because in his role as a sales agent for a money-hungry pharmaceutical, he is more attuned to the need to prepare for the pandemic. His family is provisioned for over a year with food and supplies and guns locked up in the basement. In that sense, we get to see Alex as he is without facing the survival struggles of the hooligans around him. But the hooligans are reduced in their humanity simply because - they don't have what Alex has. It is a cheap contrast. We sympathize with Alex and can't stand the hooligans, but the truth is that the hooligans could be just as sympathetic as Alex if their families were protected from the pandemic and had plenty to eat, and Alex could be just as contemptible if he was not. It's not so much that the writer wants us to want the good guys to win, but that we want the "people who had more advance warning and chance to prepare" to win. But it is easy to confuse the two in this book.
The book was filled with political statements. Alex goes around in his camouflage outfits and peppers his thoughts with his war recollections, has an impressive knowledge of guns, and an impressive collection of guns. But it turns out that all but one are unregistered. He also, even preceding the pandemic, has built an impressive survivalist complex in his basement, replete with different drug samples he has squirreled away illegally in order to keep his family as healthy as possible. Against this backdrop, the story reminds us that Alex can drop tired canards on conservatives, republicans, and Fox news with the best of the polarized left.
The above are not necessarily complaints, just "mild crititiques".
This was not the formulaic survival story some reviewers claim. It is a great read/listen, a truly engrossing story.
The dry humor that Sheldon displayed was frequently true laugh out loud material. Of course, humor was but one layer a a rich and multilayered elegiac, serious, and suspenseful novel. The historical, cross-cultural, and integenerational landscapes, the interpersonal and intra-personal tensions were superbly drawn, and the story and its complications were believable. That Sheldon was so believable, to others as suffering dementia but in reality a master of the lucid was another feat of great writing. I loved this book, except the note below.
Spoiler alert. What the heck was with the last two minutes of the book? This was a terrible letdown. It represented none of the literary finesse of the rest of the book. In notes at the end, the author says the idea of the ending just came to him. He should have let the idea of that ending keep going right on by... At the least, the granddaughter learns - by inference only - that Sheldon's Korean sniper experience was not fabricated, but Sheldon going through the entire exercise at the cottage only to end in not one, but two rifle misfires and then to be struck down by Enver - it was not nearly as uplifting as the writer seemed to intend. And to have the child ultimately saved by the relatively minor character of Lars with a crossbow - completely unrelated to the rest of the book - was puzzling. Mostly, it seemed that the great and hazard-filled venture of bringing the child to the cottage, a venture of redemption and vindication for a man who felt that he was a failure, added up to nothing in the end. And Sheldon failed to get Enver, failed to get Mr. Black, and got himself killed.
As others have pointed out, the collection of narrators was excellent and helped pace the book. Many clever twists and plot development lines, and many compelling observations of the interpretations we make of the lives we observe, interpretations that could not be further from the truth.
Rachel, the flawed amnesiac protagonist, made 1 or 2 too many really bad choices that strained credulity. And though the conclusion was about 85-90% satisfying, I'd love to see it even more satisfying. But twists and turns galore, and a truly wonderful listen.
The Princess Bride is a cult classic in our family, with many parts memorized from multiple watchings of the movie. This was a lovely retrospective led by Cary Elwes. One mystery solved, with a spoiler here --> It finally made sense of why the ROUS - rodents of unusual size - seem so cheesy and campy in the movie scenes in the fire swamp. That is the best the budget would allow, but somehow the campiness worked.
Anyway,this is a nice family listen on a road trip. It is not as magical as the subject it seeks to share, but few things are.
Fiona is a judge called on to arbitrate the ridiculous to the sublime in the complex cases of family court. The pictute McEwan paints is of a consummate and considerate professional, who, like other professionals, has her own turmoil and conflict at home - in this instance, with a husband who is seeking permission to have a fling with a younger woman. It is almost impossible to have this part of the story seem organic or uncontrived, but McEwan mostly pulls it off.
The case concerning the Jehovah's Witness family becomes the epicenter of the story, and eventually catalyzes an unraveling of sorts in Fiona's psyche. Enough said without a spoiler alert. This was an engrossing and redemptive look into a private and professional life and the relationship between the two. It ended too soon.
This story took a longer time to incubate than the five-star Prisoner of Birth. Once the story of Maisy and Harry took more form, the story became more engrossing. Moving in and out of different points of view, Archer uses the brilliant device of narrating the same story from the vantage of each of the seven main characters in the story. Spoiler coming>
As a mini-spoiler, the main evil character does not see justice done, for the most part, in this story, though perhaps time will tell, as the title suggests. And the ending, another Count of Monte Cristo/take someone else's identity similar to the one in Prisoner of Birth, is less satisfying, plausible, and wrapped up as Prisoner of Birth. But worth of credit.
I will start by saying that this book took a bit to get into. My son recommended it, and that created my entree. The narrator (Richard Poe) was outstanding. The story of the Trasks and the Hamiltons held my interest at the beginning, but I kept reserving judgment, wondering why Steinbeck considered this his greatest work. Steinbeck channels different messages through the stories of all the characters, but I think his alter ego was the Chinese character Lee, and it was in a dialog with Lee, about 30% into the story, that EoE started to come together in my mind as a mythic masterpiece. The writing, of course, is amazing. It brings you straight into early 20th century central California, with the same intensity that Larry McMurtry takes you into the old West. (Sorry for those who think it is an unfair comparison to either McMurtry or Steinbeck - Lonesome Dove is unrivaled for making the American past come alive through brilliant writing, even if nothing else by McMurtry was as good.)
This is an engrossing rendering of many characters but with the archetypes of Cain and Abel through the lens of the Salina Valley in California, via the characters of Charles and Adam and then Caleb and Aron. The C-A initials are a simple device that lets the reader know that when they think Cain and Abel, they have arrived in the author's mental neighborhood, but the layers and complexity from there are amazing, rich, and unpredictable.
The Hebrew expression "timshel" holds great import in this story, encapsulating a philosophy of human will and potential. I won't presume to know Steinbeck's held meaning, but Lee's exposition of the term is riveting and colors or flavors all of the character development in the story.
Definitely a high recommend, and a rare (for me) 5-star rating.
I rarely give 5 stars, but this is an excellent and unforgettable listen. It is not just another WWII story, but it certainly takes you inside what it was like to be in France, with both resisters and collaborators. The story of the two protagonists, a blind girl from Paris, and a German orphan, as they enter adolescence during the nightmare years of the Third Reich, is compelling. The story moves back and forth, pivoting from a liberation day for a town just after D-Day back to years from 1934-1944.
So you have three stories. One is what is happening in a town's liberation shortly after D-Day, the other two track the lives of the French girl and the German boy, as they converge to the liberation day. The story makes clear from the outset that they are in the same town at the end. The character development is deep and rich.
A wonderful and powerful story, and certainly a way to bring history alive.
I have to agree with many others who felt this audiobook was not helped by Scott Brick's narration. I usually like Brick, but for some reason he was not a good fit here. And the story was not the "remarkably fresh perspective" that the Chicago Tribune review promised. I listened and re-listened to several parts of the first 2-3 hours and then pulled this plug, moving on to another in the same genre that I could not put down. Not enough to hold my interest, though I listen to a lot in this genre.
I bought this on a 4.95 sale, and it was a very good choice. I was getting bogged down in "Bleak House" by Dickens, and this really kept me in the story. I was concerned about the reviewer who likened this to a romance novel, and it did have that element in the final third or fourth of the story. Another reviewer commented on the abrupt ending, and I have to agree. It had something of a feel of the author feeling she had done a great multigenerational story, and that was enough - let the readers make up the conclusion.
This was indeed a great multigenerational story, lots of compelling history about discriminiation against women and aboriginals and the displacements of the second world war. The card game was a great part of it - the most that can be said without a spoiler.
In addition to the conclusion, there were other abrupt points in the narrative, to me, so I would give the story 3.5 stars on those merits except, no question, it was an interesting story and i wanted to listen to it, so it comes up to four. In my magic scoring scheme, a 5 shows up once for every ten 4's, fwiw.
The narrator was excellent. I cannot make judgments on Scottish versus Aussie versus Tasmanian accents, and understand one reviewer felt the Scottish was overdone. But to this midwest US guy, it was all good.
i read enough reviews of the most recent reacher offering to think that childs had gone soft on plot in service of political commentary, so I skipped #17. many thanks to reviewers for the helpful notes on #18. this is a great addition to the series. the title is perfect - the one thing you are saying after reacher goes back to his old unit and **early plotline but not critical spoiler alert** gets reinstated in order to face felony charges is that jack, you should never go back.
there were three sequences where reacher was breaking bones, and i thought the narrative did not need to be so graphic. that was a minor complaint. the plot twists and turns in this were clever and as good as any i have seen in the 6-7 reachers i have done on audible.
the samantha character was great.
the tell at the end - the underlying scheming that put everything into motion - was fine but not nearly as strong as the rest of the book. and as i captioned the review, i could not put this book down.
someone confused the narrator with scott brick. this is not a brick narration, but rather dick hill, who has a very different style. (i happen to like both.) when dick hill is at his best, he is the best. this was a great narration by hill, especially including the female voices.
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