Caroline Leavitt is at her mesmerizing best in this haunting, nuanced portrait of love, sisters, and the impossible legacy of family.
It's 1969, and 16-year-old Lucy is about to run away with a much older man to live off the grid in rural Pennsylvania, a rash act that will have vicious repercussions for both her and her older sister, Charlotte. As Lucy's default caretaker for most of their lives, Charlotte's youth has been marked by the burden of responsibility, but never more so than when Lucy's dream of a rural paradise turns into a nightmare.
Cruel Beautiful World examines the intricate, infinitesimal distance between seduction and love, loyalty and duty, and explores what happens when you're responsible for things you cannot make right.
©2016 Caroline Leavitt (P)2016 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
I was hooked from the first chapter. Surprised in places. Thanks to the wonderful narration, I felt like I was in the story. Definitely recommend.
This book came recommended from NPR's book section, which was why I was interested in listening to it. This story is set in the late 1960s, but several day to day details in the characters' stories do not fit with the time period. For example, one character uses a credit card at a gas station in 1969! while other character's backstories include cultural references that would not have happened during the period of the flashback. The references to events of the time period are cliche (hippies, Manson murders, Vietnam War protests) and do not lend any credibility to the story.
It is a shame, because the writing is compelling and the story is very good at times, but these inconsistencies to the time period cause the listener/reader to pull back from the story instead of being immersed in it. I found myself wondering several times while I was listening to the story whether something could have happened in real life the way the author wrote the scene, and it broke my engagement with the book at many points.
For a seasoned author of several books, it seems like a rookie mistake for Leavitt to not effectively research the time period she is writing in, especially one as iconic as the 1960s. Being that the time period itself did not really affect the outcome of the story, I think this author could have solved all her anachronistic problems by setting her book in the 1980s.
Xe Sands has a nice narration voice, but her character voices are cliche and one-dimensional. All of the men have the same gravelly drone, the older woman in the story sounds like a hag in a fairy tale, and the two young girls voices sound like 11 year olds chewing their hair. I think she could have added more variety to her performance.
I think the character of Patrick was a waste of space, and his storyline did not fit with the rest of the book. William's story should have been fleshed out more, because his motivations were never really explained.
The actual story is very sad, and Leavitt does a good job conveying the pain and suffering of the characters during the course of the book.
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