The ordinary heroines of Anne Tyler’s small towns step on their skirts and interrupt when they should listen. A Slipping-Down Life, Tyler’s third novel, yokes Evie Decker to this imperfect sisterhood. At first Evie appears blank as a pot of white paint, just another fat girl walking alone, secretly admiring her own slender wrists. But the smokescreen upends when Evie catches local rock and roller Drumstrings Casey on the radio. She’s a goner. It’s the early sixties after all. But Evie’s infatuation soon defaults into doomed teen marriage after she carves his name across her forehead with nail clippers, thereby inventing his fame and claiming his dependence on her.
Audie Award-winner Jessica Almasy narrates with a perky bounciness that nicely mimics Drum’s guitar jams at dive bar Unicorn, where he burns up the stage while fan girls catcall and flap “eyelashes the size of small whiskbrooms”. Evie is murkier, though, and Almasy struggles to connect us to the character’s muffled core of unhappiness. Partly to blame: Almasy’s grating, singsong cadences and uptalking, which ends most sentences on smiley faces. Her southern accent also hinders. A Slipping-Down Life unfolds in North Carolina, yet Almasy affects a stagey Steel Magnolias drawl.
Evie Decker isn’t clever or insightful. Rather, she’s self-absorbed and pushy in an under-the-radar way. Still, she does have one friend Violet and it’s she who ultimately redeems Almasy’s performance. More hulking than Evie, Violet is blazingly gorgeous, with a husky voice that hypnotizes and cranes heads. Almasy channels this source of allure as a blend of wild clover honey and throaty screen siren. Her Violet is so intoxicating it only makes you adore her more for pinning a wiglet to her hair. Nita Rao
Evie Decker is a shy, slightly plump teenager, lonely and silent. But her quiet life is shattered when she hears the voice of Drumstrings Casey on the radio and becomes instantly attracted to him. She manages to meet him, bursting out of her lonely shell—and into the attentive gaze of the intangible man who becomes all too real.
©1969, 1970 AnneTyler Modarressi (P)2010 Audible, Inc
This narrator was so bad I found myself riding in the car screaming at her. She over enunciated. Her cadence was maddening. Worst of all, her choice of words to stress in her narration was appalling. I never thought so much about the incredibly negative impact a poor narrator can have.
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