Q and A (the book's original title) is a novel of vast scope and tremendous depth, full of irony amid tragedy, and hope surrounded by despair. The "story" of its main character, "Ram Mohammed Thomas," is the equivalent of at least a dozen stories, and gives the reader/listener SO much more than the movie, Slumdog Millionaire, could ever hope to do. For those who saw the movie, listening to the novel will be an entirely different experience.
There is something in this novel for everyone to relate to, I believe, and what makes it all so marvelous is the writing talent of its first-time novelist, Vikas Swarup. Mr. Swarup has given us all a look into contemporary life in the big cities of India, through the eyes of a boy badly used by that life. In doing so, he educates while entertaining us with a plot filled with incredible coincidences, and surprise conclusions that keep us on edge, and eager for more. That's what I can say about the book alone; add Christopher Simpson's amazing array of voices and accents that match up with characters coming from various social classes and regions, and this Slumdog Millionaire becomes an un-put-down-able "listen."
Not what I expected from a book purportedly about life with DID, this memoir provided tons of detail about how to become a great athlete after being an overweight child who suffered the taunts and physical attacks of schoolmates in the rural South. Disappointingly sparing were any details about Mr. Walker's actual experiences with dissociation and the consequences of it. Perhaps this was the author's Intent -- to write a book about devotion to physical fitness and Christianity -- but it leaves readers almost clueless about what it is like to live as a person diagnosed with the largely misunderstood condition of dissociative identity disorder. On the other hand, if you're looking/listening for a motivational story with this author's biases, you will likely enjoy the book.
So many reviewers have said that the book is slow to grab the listener's ear, and I agree, as far as content is concerned. But, John Lee's rendering of the voices and the narrative is superb, and that kept me going. Also, I was extremely drawn to the subject of caste and class in 20th Century India, so I stuck it out through the first third of the book.
Indeed, the stories are extremely saddening (and sometimes quite revolting, so beware if your stomach is as sensitive as mine), which makes the book difficult to digest a lot of the time. Yet, I never had the sense that anything in it was less than believable.
Poverty is often inconceivably harsh, which is why a book like this is so important for readers born and reared in the USA to read/hear. One thing I found myself doing throughout my "listen" was reminding myself of what life was like here, in the same time periods that Mistry's characters were living through, which added to the experience for me.
I can't say I "enjoyed" the book, but I have to say I could NOT stop listening until I got to the end--even though I literally cried for the last 3 hours of it. That is how compelling the writing and the reader of this book were.
As a lengthy monologue presenting a very sound thesis, the Audiobook is a great success. Tying together the 3 monotheistic traditions of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity with the knot of their common patriarchal ancestry, the author tells a fascinating tale which also provides much valuable information about the 3 faith communities. As a "course," however (which it purports to be), the Audiobook is disappointing because of its unorganized, off-the-cuff presentation. I found it impossible, at the end, to find all the answers to the "Final Exam" questions without using outside sources.
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