Without doubt Stephen King's best! I have listened to it three times since it came out and enjoy it more with each experience. This is perhaps his most "autobiographical" book as he uses the character of a popular fiction writer to express what might well be some of his own deep-seated fears in life. Although his narration obviously lacks the polish of some of the truly great narrators, his voice gives the story an amazing authenticity that draws you into Western Maine and the lives of his characters. And, of course, it terrifies with his best.
I've often pondered the source of my inherent disdain and mistrust (perhaps hatred) for those in authority, particularly political authority. Part of the answer is in this book. Two of my ancestors fled Ireland in 1847 and made their way aboard coffin ships to the United States. I can feel their overwhelming influence even across the four generations that separate us. Brilliant Book and Wonderful Narration. Everyone should listen. It teaches a lesson few are willing to recognize, that the worst suffering and evil in this world flows principally from the hands of those in power who are convinced they are performing God's will.
Although written in 1966 based upon a short story published in 1959, nothing about this book is dated, hackneyed or trite. In fact, little would need to be changed for it to pass as a recently published novel set in the 1960s. The current Wikipedia entry for this book notes three main themes: treatment of the mentally disabled, the conflict between intellect and emotion or happiness, and how events in the past can influence a person later in life. Keyes does effectively develve into each of these issues, particuarly the last. However, for me, the deeper issue is Keyes' subtle, unstated questions about the value of all life, particularly the lives of those with little awarness of their own worth. In addition, Jeff Woodman's narration was superlative. His voice, inflection, cadence, etc. gave life and meaning to Charlie's character in a way that complemented and added to Keyes' writing. I listen to audiodbooks about 20 hours each week, and few books have affected me like this one in months. Give it a try.
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