This National Book Award-winning memoir is a delight. Eire's observations of his time in Havana as a young boy growing up in a well-to-do family, before the revolution, reflect the unique perspective of youth on family and daily events yet also reveal glimpses into the future as a "lost boy" evacuated from Cuba shortly after Castro came into power. I loved his "voice" as the author, but I did not care at all for the reader's interpretation of the book. His mostly flat, predictably metered reading I found tedious. He did manage some different voices for the female characters and the odd sound effects. But I don't think he did the story justice. I would still recommend the book, just listen to a sample first to see if you're willing to spend so many hours with that voice.
I listened to this book on a long drive in one day. As the story progressed I was occasionally irritated by the simplistic writing style, however the author created such empathetic characters in Y'Tin and his family that I stopped being annoyed and became very enthusiastic about the way she shared a rarely-exposed side of war. Younger readers rarely have a chance to consider the other side of the story for people who live through a war. With the young protagonist, Y'Tin, who comes to question issues around why the Americans, including a special forces unit that his father worked with, left without "winning" the war, how friends can undergo changes as their normal lives are deconstructed, and how family and extended family, in this case the elephant "Lady", are so important. The questions he ponders during his time in the jungle after fleeing the North Vietnamese army are thought provoking to readers/listeners of all ages. I really enjoyed this book because it reminded me that wars have two sides (at least) and are rarely "won". An while it was not so much about elephants, there are wonderful passages about Y'Tin's relationship with Lady and tidbits about elephants and their place in the southeast asian culture.
I really wanted to like this book, but found the story line and characters predictable and unremarkable. The central character, an Irish girl who ends up being raised by slaves on a tobacco plantation in post Revolutionary War south, is likeable, but lacks depth as a character. All the other characters are equally shallow and stereotypical. The plot is unsurprising as well.
However, if you're looking for good narration, Orlagh Cassidy and Bahni Turpin do a first class job and their voices were the only thing that kept me listening to the end.
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