I picked this for Jenna Lamia's narration, believing she does the best Southern accent I've heard, distinctive without being overdone. I ended by being completely captivated by the story-tragic, humorous and unsentimental-and by the lively, brave Tessa Lee. I disagree with the reviewer who thought it dragged. At the end, I was wishing for six more chapters or so.
I can't believe I persevered all the way to the end of this annoying book. I have to say that the narrator's breathless style probably sounded exactly the way I would expect these characters to sound. It was easier to take as the story went along. The character of the daughter at least had the excuse of being a young teenager. None of the other characters had any good excuse for their behavior. I kept hoping I would like Bernadette better as I learned more about her, but it was just the opposite. The only plot twist that was mildly interesting, which came late in the book, was never fully resolved. (I'm leaving it out so as not to spoil the surprise, but I might be doing everybody a favor if I revealed it to save people the trouble of reading the whole thing.) Under all the laughs, this seemed to be a mean spirited sort of book, full of condescending humor toward everyone not as brilliant and special as Bernadette and her daughter.
I got this because I really liked Tending Virginia years ago & because I like southern writers. The narrator was okay, though I wish she had asked some old person like me how to pronounce Serutan and I wished for someone who could have added an authentic Southern accent, like Jenna Lamia. I initially had some of the reservations of some of the other reviewers. I couldn't get the characters straight. They seemed to be wandering aimlessly. Then everybody clicked into place about a third of the way through, and although most of them didn't do what I expected or wanted them to, I got attached to them. They were unpredictable, foolish, reckless and wise. I got so I wanted to check in with them every day, just to see what they were up to, even if I only had ten free minutes. Even the ending, which caught me and apparently 90% of the other reviewers by surprise, felt heartbreaking, unexpected and irreversible, just like real life. To me, the measure of a good book is whether it sticks with me after I have finished it, and I think this one will be with me for a long time.
It's been a long time since I was so thoroughly surprised by a book. I was amazed that some reviewers found it predictable. A time or two, there was a plot twist that made me gasp out loud. There were uneven spots, but overall I found the book and characters captivating. It is good to be reminded how far women in our country have come since the 1920's.
I was drawn to this book because I was born in Kansas and lived there as a small child. I haven't been back as an adult, so can't argue with the reviewers who thought the accent was wrong, but Elizabeth McGovern's reading immediately brought back the voice of my Kansas grandmother which I haven't heard in over forty years.
I have a comment about the reviewer who found Louise to be too sophisticated and confident for a girl who had been sexually abused. As a therapist, I treated many young women survivors of sexual abuse who were pseudo-mature and confident, but whose lives were a mess and full of pain under the surface, which is how I saw Louise.
I hurried to read this after stumbling onto the author's novel, Something Rising Light & Swift, and being bowled over by Haven Kimmel's clear and quirky style. I loved this memoir, her unsentimental and affectionate take on her slightly odd family and her little town and her dry humor. Her reading was perfect. I've recommended this book to everyone I know.
I'll bet I wasn't the only listener who ordered this book believing it to be the recent best-seller-list biography published shortly after her death. There were interesting tidbits, but the fawning descriptions of "this remarkable actress," etc. in almost every paragraph and the Hollywood-hype reading by the narrator had me feeling that I was listening to a publicity blurb from the forties. It also had the effect of presenting Ms. Hepburn as an icon, not a human being, which got pretty dull after a while. I hope Audible offers the other biography, the name of which, of course, escapes me right now.
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