While I'm a big fan of Noah Taylor's acting (Simon Magus--highly recommend) he was terrible as a narrator. His dispassionate, breathless style of reading made him difficult to hear. I felt like I was being read a novel in a creative writing class by a neophyte writer who thought his story was "deep."
I only made it an hour in. The book itself might be fine.
I'd normally be wary about an author reading his own book, but Walter does a great job. You can hear the deadpan humor in his voice, and he reads it beautifully. (Note: he talks about his experience of reading this book in the afterword of "Beautiful Ruins.")
Excellent story, great characters, and I laughed out loud at least a dozen times.
“This book is chock full of lost potential. A novel should be a long answer to a good question. The author had a brilliant notion to create a morally ambiguous situation--one that *could* have illuminated the culturally relevant topics of religious abuse, deconversion, and cast an anthropological eye on religious ecstasy. Instead, Hellenga decides to spend page after page lecturing us on completely irrelevant topics that do not lend even the slightest contribution to answering the excellent questions his novel puts forth. It reminds me of a student who had to write a 10,000 word essay for his history professor, and decided to copy-and-paste 4,000 words from a science paper he just wrote in order to make the word count.
The pygmies were not relevant. Playing the timpani is grossly irrelevant. The whole shoppingcart subplot was irrelevant. The French language lessons were irrelevant. He even inserted a slide show through Paris: IRRELEVANT!
This novel is badly in need of a good editor. It's a bait-and-switch; Hellenga promises a fascinating glimpse into a woman who deconverts from a snake-handling cult, and then says
Coleen Marlo is a FANTASTIC reader. She clearly delineated all the characters, even the male ones. When a character was crying, she sounded like she was crying. She's masterful.
There were a few times when she would have benefited from a better director. She repeatedly used the phrase
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