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Cariola

Chambersburg, PA USA
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  • Fools and Mortals

  • A Novel
  • By: Bernard Cornwell
  • Narrated by: Thomas Judd
  • Length: 10 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 244
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 229
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 229

In the heart of Elizabethan England, Richard Shakespeare dreams of a glittering career in one of the London playhouses, a world dominated by his older brother, William. But he is a penniless actor, making ends meet through a combination of a beautiful face, petty theft, and a silver tongue. As William's star rises, Richard's onetime gratitude is souring, and he is sorely tempted to abandon family loyalty.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • TRULY astounding narration!

  • By Clayton on 01-14-18

Shakespeare, London, and a lot of fun

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-29-18

This is one case where I am glad that I listened to the book on audio rather than reading it in print. A lot of the reviewers complained about descriptions of the stage performances and underdeveloped characters, but neither was an issue with the audiobook, thanks, in great part, to the reader, Thomas Judd. I was probably also at an advantage because I have never read any of Cornwell's other novals, which focus on lots of battlefield and shipboard action. Another advantage: I'm a Shakespearean, so I got a lot of the inside jokes and have a lot of knowledge about what the workings of the court, the theatre, and the London street were like at the time. I felt that Cornwell did an accurate job of portraying them all, and I enjoyed his portrayal of characters who are well-known to me. Here, again, the reader helped; his voice for Will Kemp was hilarious and spot on.

So what's it all about? Will Shakespeare's younger brother Richard flees Startford after thinking he has killed the carpenter to whom he was (unhappily) apprenticed. He's a handsome lad, taller than his brother, and he's soon put to work acting women's parts. He moves from the younger women to the older as his voice changes, but he longs to play a real man's part. As Richard (and Cornwell) take us through the backstage workings, rivalries, quarrels, petty thievery and more, we're party to plans for a performance of a new play, 'A Midsummer Night's Dream,' as the wedding entertainment for a granddaughter of Lord Hunsdun, one of the queen's favorites. And there's a new play in the works, written for the queen: 'Romeo and Juliet.' Offstage, we see Richard falling in love with Sylvia, maid to daughter of the theatre's patron. And when some treasured play scripts disappear, Richard vows to find and return them, but he asks for a particular reward: a good man's part written just for him. There was enough action for me in Richard's run-ins with Puritans and rivals while searching for the manuscript (but then I'm not one much interested in the warfare typical of other Cornwell novels). I'd recommend this enjoyable read to anyone interested in Elizabethan London and the theatre world.

  • The Sealwoman's Gift

  • By: Sally Magnusson
  • Narrated by: Katherine Manners
  • Length: 9 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 19
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 18
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 18

In 1627 Barbary pirates raided the coast of Iceland and abducted some 400 of its people, including 250 from a tiny island off the mainland. Among the captives sold into slavery in Algiers were the island pastor, his wife and their three children. Although the raid itself is well documented, little is known about what happened to the women and children afterwards. It was a time when women everywhere were largely silent.  

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Beautifully written, compelling storytelling

  • By Cathy L. on 03-04-18

Interesting at first--but I got bored.

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-07-18

This novel is based on a true event when, in the mid-17th century, a Turkish fleet flying under Danish flags raids the small Icelandic island community of Heimat, slaughtering many of the inhabitants but also pirating others away to be sold as slaves. The main character, Asta, is the pregnant second wife of Olafur, a much older priest. Asta gives birth to her youngest child, Jon, during the journey to Algiers. There, the family is split apart, and Asta spends nearly ten years as slave to a Muslim master. During this time, she struggles to hold on to her Christian faith and to reunite with her children and friends. She finds solace in the Icelandic sagas that she loves and also uses them to entertain her master. When Asta learns that her husband (who she had presumed was dead) has finally persuaded the Danish king to ransom the some of the captives, she faces a decision that will be devastating, no matter what choice she makes. She is forced to reassess her life, her priorities, and her values.

Although I enjoyed the novel, I felt that it got bogged down at times, especially when it broke out in romance. Magnusson certainly has done her research and gives insights into the reality of life for Muslim women in the time period: near the end, one character even observes how odd it seems that these women, who had suffered terrible fates as slaves, came home not broken but standing taller and stronger.

  • Wise Blood

  • By: Flannery O’Connor
  • Narrated by: Bronson Pinchot
  • Length: 4 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 474
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 397
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 397

Flannery O’Connor’s astonishing and haunting first novel is a classic of 20th-century literature. It is the story of Hazel Motes, a 22-year-old caught in an unending struggle against his innate, desperate faith. He falls under the spell of a “blind” street preacher named Asa Hawks and his degenerate fifteen-year-old daughter. In an ironic, malicious gesture of his own non-faith, and to prove himself a greater cynic than Hawks, Hazel founds The Church of God Without Christ but is still thwarted in his efforts to lose God.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Grotesque Southern Gothic Masterpiece

  • By Darwin8u on 10-18-12

Eh, Not a Favorite, but Great Reader

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-07-18

Well, I guess I'm just not much of a Flannery O'Connor afficiando, because as some of my fellow readers. As a commentary on the fact that it is virtually impossible for human beings not to believe in something (even if it is disbelief), it has its moments, and it certainly depicts the bleakness of the American South in the 1950s. But I just didn't find myself caught up in the characters or their stories, and I found myself wishing that I was reading Elmore Gantry instead. In all of her work, I get the sense that O'Connor is trying just a little too hard to shock.

Like many veterans of World War II, Hazel Motes has lost his faith in God (despite the fact that his grandfather was a traveling preacher), and he is even further shaken when he returns to his home town, only to find that his family has moved on and the belongings they left have been ransacked. He falls in with an assorted lot of shady characters: a prostitute named Leona Watts whose address he found scrawled on the wall of a men's room; Enoch Emery, a bad boy zookeeper who is more than a little crazy but shares Hazel's atheism; a blind preacher, Asa Hawks, and his teenage daughter, Sabbath Lily; and a man in a gorilla costume. Motes decides to launch an anti-religion ministry. His admirer, Enoch, attempts to establish himself as a kind of anti-John the Baptist to Motes's anti-Christ, and another admirer, Hoover Shoats, rechristens himself as Onnie Jay Holy and sets up his own Holy Church of the Church Without Christ. It's a downward spiral for them all from here on out.

Reading over that description, I need to warn you that this is NOT a funny novel; indeed, it's very, very dark, although it has it's moments that are so absurdly drawn to shock that they may cause you to laugh. Since the book is as old as I am, I will forgive it's somewhat dated style and themes, but I found myself rather bored by it.

  • Daughters of the Winter Queen

  • Four Remarkable Sisters, the Crown of Bohemia, and the Enduring Legacy of Mary, Queen of Scots
  • By: Nancy Goldstone
  • Narrated by: Laura Kirman
  • Length: 13 hrs and 59 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 30
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 27
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 27

Young Elizabeth Stuart was thrust into a life of wealth and splendor when her godmother, Queen Elizabeth I, died and her father, James I, ascended to the illustrious throne of England. At 16 she was married to a dashing German count far below her rank, with the understanding that James would help her husband achieve the crown of Bohemia. Her father's terrible betrayal of this promise would ruin "the Winter Queen", as Elizabeth would forever be known, imperil the lives of those she loved, and launch a war that would last for 30 years.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Misnamed but Wonderful

  • By Anonymous User on 05-16-18

Mary Queen of Scots' Prevailing Influence

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-07-18

Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James I (and therefore granddaughter of Mary, Queen of Scots) was married to a lesser noble, Frederick, Elector of Palatine, with the promise that her father would support his efforts to win the crown of Bohemia. James--not exactly know for being fair and honest when it wasn't expedient--backed out of the promise, an act that sent Elizabeth and her family into exile and ultimately led to the devastating Thirty Years War. Despite the loss of his crown and the years of political turmoil, Elizabeth and Frederick got along well; in fact, they produced 13 children, eight sons (two died young) and five daughters (one died at age three). Goldstone's book focuses on the couple's three surviving daughters, the youngest of which, Sophia, ended up named heiress presumptive to the British throne and launches the Hanoverian dynasty, thus fulfilling her grandmother's legacy. The eldest, Elizabeth, was known for her scholarship in languages, mathematics, history, geography, and the arts. She corresponded with and even challenged Rene Descartes, and later, as a Protestant Abbess, befriended William Penn. Both men dedicated books to her. Her sister Louise Hollandine was a talented portrait painter. She shocked her staunchly Calvinist family by fleeing to France and converting to Catholicism at the age of 39; she later took holy orders and also became an abbess. Henriette Marie married a brother of the Prince of Transylvania; sadly, she died of unknown causes at the age of 25, and her husband died only a few months later. Sophia wed the Elector or Hanover. When it appeared that neither William III, now widowed, nor the future queen Anne would produce heirs, Parliament enacted the Settlement of 1701, which required any ruler to be Protestant, making Sophia the heiress presumptive. It was her son Charles Louis who later took the throne of Great Britain as George I.

Goldstone provides many details of life at court and in exile, of the daughters' education and quests for suitable spouses, and of the upheaval caused by the religious wars. Her research is meticulous and exhaustive. Overall, an intriguing look into the lives of four 17th-century royal women who struggles to survive and to find themselves.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Kitchen House

  • A Novel
  • By: Kathleen Grissom
  • Narrated by: Orlagh Cassidy, Bahni Turpin
  • Length: 12 hrs and 56 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 284
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 256
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 256

Orphaned during her passage from Ireland, young, white Lavinia arrives on the steps of the kitchen house and is placed, as an indentured servant, under the care of Belle, the master's illegitimate slave daughter. Lavinia learns to cook, clean, and serve food while guided by the quiet strength and love of her new family. In time Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, caring for the master's opium-addicted wife and befriending his dangerous yet protective son. She attempts to straddle the worlds of the kitchen and big house, but her skin color will forever set her apart.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Wow!

  • By angela williams on 06-09-18

Two Families, Hardships and Joy

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-07-18

In the early 19th century, Lavinia, a young Irish girl who lost her family during immigration, is brought to a plantation as an indentured servant. She is taken to the kitchen house where Belle, a light-skinned young slave, is assigned to care for her. After a difficult adjustment period, Lavinia comes to think of the plantation as home and the slaves as her family. Life isn't always easy for them, but neither is it for the master's family: Martha, his wife, has to deal with her husband's affairs, the separation from her own family in Philadelphia, the loss of several children, and a doctor who pushes laudanum; Marshall, the heir apparent, is belittled and abused by his father and his tutor; and little Sally longs for playmates but is forbidden to socialize with the black children. Lavinia becomes Sally's main companion and the caregiver for the newest baby, but she also relishes her time in the kitchen house with Belle, Mama May, and the other slaves. We see, through her eyes, the hardships and cruelty that both families must endure. When Lavinia approaches her teens, she is sent to live with Miss Martha's sister, where she will receive a proper education and learn behavior more appropriate for a young white woman, but her ties to both families back home remain strong. Her return, however, is not as idyllic as she had hoped.

Grissom creates memorable characters and a story that keeps the reader's attention. As one would expect in any novel that deals with slavery, there are moments that are truly horrific, and even the happy times are always under the shadow of bondage. I'm looking forward to the sequel, in which Belle's son Jamie, now a grown man, moves to the city and passes as white.

  • A Higher Loyalty

  • Truth, Lies, and Leadership
  • By: James Comey
  • Narrated by: James Comey
  • Length: 9 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 18,794
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 17,143
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 17,065

In his audiobook, A Higher Loyalty, former FBI director James Comey shares his never-before-told experiences from some of the highest stakes situations of his career in the past two decades of American government, exploring what good, ethical leadership looks like and how it drives sound decisions. His journey provides an unprecedented entry into the corridors of powe, and a remarkable lesson in what makes an effective leader.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • More Than Trump: All Comey's Life/Working Years--

  • By Gillian on 04-17-18

Not What You're Expecting

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-18-18

After my experience with Fire and Fury, I wasn't sure if I would regret purchasing James Comey's much-anticipated book. I don't. The issue I had with Michael Woolf's book was simply that there were no surprises by the time the cable news networks had done their interviews and discussions. There are no Trump bombshells in Comey's book that haven't also been made public in his testimony or his interview with George Stephanopoulos--but the 2016 election and the Trump presidency make up only the last 20-25% of the book, and the rest is very interesting indeed. A Higher Loyalty is an honest memoir, one that looks back at the events and individuals that shaped the former FBI Director's character and values and his concept of what makes a good leader.

In addressing his childhood, Comey talks about a devastating move from a familiar school and neighborhood (his grandfather had been the local police commissioner) where he had been one of the popular kinds to another where he suffered bullying. He tells us about a terrifying incident when, as a teenager, he and his brother were held at gunpoint by a home invader later identified as a serial rapist. He recounts some stupid mistakes he made as a grocery stockboy, and of the owner, a man whose example gave him some important lessons in what makes a good leader. Later, we see him discovering the work of Reinhold Niebuhr in a college religion class. (You may have seen Comey's tweets under Neibuhr's name, many of them using the theologist's own words.) He gives us insights into his long marriage to a supportive wife and their tragic loss of an infant son. Along the way, he remembers teachers, colleagues, and others who set an example for the man he hoped to become.

And, of course, there is his long and fascinating career. After a stint as law clerk to a federal judge in Manhattan and a short stint with a private law firm, Comey joined the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York--the same office currently investigating Michael Cohen, President Trump's "fixer." One of the cases he worked on was the Gambino crime family prosecution, and he has a lot of intriguing stories to tell about that experience. He was deputy special counsel to the Whitewater investigation--his first run-in with Hillary Clinton--and, as US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, investigated President Clinton's pardon of fugitive Marc Rich, a Clinton campaign contributor facing federal charges of violating trade sanctions against Iran. I had no idea that Comey was the lead prosecutor in the case against Martha Stewart. His discussion of the case and the dilemmas he faced are a fine example of the way he uses his legal experiences to demonstrate his sense of ethics. Years earlier, he had upheld the conviction of a young black assistant pastor who had lied to the FBI in attempting to protect his mentor. If this man served time for his crime, why should Martha Stewart be shown leniency for the same crime and others?

Comey's first headlong plunge into Washington politics came when he opposed the Bush regime's extension of the NSA's domestic wiretapping program, which had been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The story of his visit to John Ashcroft's hospital bedside, accompanied by three trusted colleagues, including then-FBI Director Robert Mueller. They persuaded Ashcroft, the Attorney General, to uphold the discontinuation of the wiretaps, thwarting the wishes of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez. This was not Comey's last run-in with these politicos and others, including Condoleeza Rice. He opposed the interrogation procedures--waterboarding, sleep deprivation, humiliation, etc.--as forms of both physical and mental torture, and he was involved in the investigation of Scooter Libby for lying to the FBI, obstructing justice, and outing CIA agent Valerie Plame. (Is it possible this is yet another reason, in addition to sending a message to cronies under investigation, for Trump's recent pardon of Libby?) Again and again, he stands up for his belief that members of the Justice Department, once appointed, must work independently and not be steered by the Executive Office. He addresses the criticism he received for appearing sympathetic to the concerns of Black Lives Matters and recounts his efforts to increase the percentage of minority personnel working for the FBI, encouraging employees to recruit talented people by telling them about the opportunities the department offers and by "finding joy" in their own work.

And there are the last few years: the issue of Hillary Clinton's private server and lost emails, the concerns about Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and the exchanges with Trump that resulted in Comey's firing. Comey is nothing if not honest about his personal faults and the mistakes he has made, but he attempts to explain the internal conflicts he faced and the rationale behind his decisions. You may not agree with him, but you can't help but agree that he thought he was doing his job to the best of his ability, holding fast to the truth he still believes will set us all free and following the example of his lifelong mentors. (Once his book tour is over, he will be returning to the classroom, teaching courses in effective and ethical leadership.)

I listened to this book on audio and recommend it in that format. Comey is a good writer and a very good reader, and hearing him tell his own story adds credence to it. I enjoyed A Higher Loyalty not as an exposé or even a self-justification, but simply as the story of one man's life and its challenges. I only wish I shared his optimism about our country's future. He ends with a metaphor: when forest fires burn themselves out, there is room for more and better things to emerge from the scorched earth, resulting in a forest that is even stronger than before.

102 of 145 people found this review helpful

  • You Don't Have to Say You Love Me

  • A Memoir
  • By: Sherman Alexie
  • Narrated by: Sherman Alexie
  • Length: 12 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,268
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,170
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,165

When his mother passed away at the age of 78, Sherman Alexie responded the only way he knew how: He wrote. The result is this stunning memoir. Featuring 78 poems and 78 essays, Alexie shares raw, angry, funny, profane, tender memories of a childhood few can imagine - growing up dirt poor on an Indian reservation, one of four children raised by alcoholic parents. Throughout, a portrait emerges of his mother as a beautiful, mercurial, abusive, intelligent, complicated woman.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • True connection

  • By Tom on 07-20-17

Perfect

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-19-17

I've come late Sherman Alexie's work, having read only a handful of poems and a few short stories, but I certainly know him by reputation as our foremost contemporary Native American writer. Much of his fiction is suspected to be autobiographical, but You Don't Have to Say You Love Me is his only declared memoir. It focuses on Alexie's conflicted relationship with his mother Lillian, and it is through the lens of that relationship that nearly all the events described in this book are filtered. Lillian was a generous woman, always ready to help a neighbor in need; she taught the dying Spokane Indian language (but not to her own children), and she created quilts that embody tribal history. But as a mother, she was often neglectful and sometimes downright cruel. She was a drinker, and she ignored the pain that Sherman endured at the hands of bullies; she let the electricity get shut off in the middle of winter, yet she worked through the night finish a quilt, the payment for which would get the electricity turned on again. When Sherman was only 11, she told him that she was a child born of rape, and he later learned that his sister had been told that Mary, their eldest sibling, was also the child of a rape. (The photo on the book's cover is not of his mother and Sherman but of Lillian and this sister, Mary.) Sherman is as haunted by the fact that she revealed bits of her secrets to each child as by the history of rape in his family tree. Yet the maternal ties kept binding, no matter how far away Sherman moved, no matter how long he went without visiting his mother, despite successes and failures, health crises, and happy moments. And of course, Alexie's memoir is in many ways the story of the rez and the Native Americans who grew up there--the bullies, the criminals, the ones who died young of drugs, booze, or violence, the too-young mothers of too many children, the hopeful and those who had lost all hope.

Alexie tells his story in a series of 78 short essays and 78 poems, and the combination is powerful. I listened to the book on audio, read by Alexie himself, and I can't recommend it highly enough. He is, of course, the perfect reader of his own history and his own words. At times, emotion overwhelms his voice, but this only adds to the poignancy. I was left both sad and uplifted, and with a desire to read more of Alexie's work.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Bad Dreams and Other Stories

  • By: Tessa Hadley
  • Narrated by: Emma Gregory
  • Length: 5 hrs and 50 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 27
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 26
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 25

Two sisters quarrel over an inheritance and a new baby; a child awake in the night explores the familiar rooms of her home, made strange by the darkness; a housekeeper caring for a helpless old man uncovers secrets from his past. The first steps into a turning point and a new life are made so easily and carelessly: Each of these stories illuminates a crucial moment of transition, often imperceptible to the protagonist.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Small Objects, Big Insights

  • By Cariola on 07-15-17

Small Objects, Big Insights

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-15-17

Tessa Hadley's short stories are always deceptive, in a good way. They come off as small tales of ordinary people (a child plagued by nightmares, a housekeeper, two sisters at odds over the sale of their parents; home), often in mundane situations. But what Hadley brings to their stories is a remarkable level of authenticity of character. She has mastered the language of thought, of interior emotions like few other writers today. These are people who think as we tend to think, who feel in the ways that we often feel, and yet she conveys this not through vague, abstract words but through concrete objects, visual snapshots, lingering sounds, metaphors. It's quite a skill, and it serves her well.

The ten stories in this collection vary greatly yet are all linked by a moment of self-discovery. In "Abduction," set in the 1960s, a teenaged girl left home alone on break accepts a ride from three unknown boys. It might have gone the way of Joyce Carol Oates's "Where Are you Going? Where Have you Been?" but Hadley is too perceptive to fall for that trap. In "One Saturday Morning," a 10-year old opens the door to an unknown acquaintance of her parents while they run errands. Their conversation, and the one that she overhears when her parents come home, give her a first peek into adult life and a moment of maturing empathy. Claire, the focus of "Flight," is a successful woman who returns to visit her working class sister, using the birth of a nephew as an excuse for reconciliation, but perhaps her intentions are not as altruistic as she would like to believe. A housekeeper reads her employer's diary, uncovering secrets that change their relationship. A designer is called on to create a trousseau for a former classmate.

Simple stories, simple moments, extraordinary insights into human nature conveyed through Hadley's perceptiveness and masterful style.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • A Thousand Paper Birds

  • By: Tor Udall
  • Narrated by: Gavin Osborn
  • Length: 9 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 9
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 8
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 9

An intimate portrait of five inextricably linked lives, spanning one calendar year at Kew Gardens - an exquisite, strange and beautiful debut for fans of Alice Sebold, Curtis Sittenfeld, Barbara Kingsolver and Audrey Niffenegger. After the sudden death of his wife, Audrey, Jonah sits on a bench in Kew Gardens, trying to reassemble the shattered pieces of his life. Chloe, shaven-headed and abrasive, finds solace in the origami she meticulously folds. But when she meets Jonah, her defences threaten to fall.

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • A Waste Of Time

  • By Sara on 06-26-17

Not What I Expected, but It Had It's Positive Poin

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-09-17

I can't quite explain why I downloaded this audiobook as it's just not the kind of thing I usually enjoy. Maybe it was the fact that it interweaves the stories of five different characters (a frame to which I'm partial), or maybe it was because it's set mainly in Kew Gardens, a place that I loved visiting. Had I paid more attention to comparisons to Audrey Nifffenegger and Curtis Sittenfield, I probably would have passed on it. Tor Udall's first novel focuses on the interrelated stories of five people, each of them drawn to Kew, and each of them suffering from some kind of loss. There's Jonah, a recently widowed musician/music teacher; Chloe, an emotionally damaged young artist and master of origami; Milly, a little girl who seems to wander aimlessly through Kew with no parents in sight; Harry, an introverted gardener who seems to trust no one; and Audrey, Jonah's wife, whose life has been blighted by a series of miscarriages. Audrey is the link that eventually brings them all together. Initially, I thought the book was relying a lot on flashbacks, but I came to realize that only some of the characters were on "this side"--or, perhaps more rightly, that some of them had not yet let go and passed over.

As stated, this isn't exactly my usual fare, but there were some things to admire. Udall did create empathy for each of the suffering characters, and there are glorious descriptions of Kew through the seasons and the effects of nature--particularly plants--on the human psyche. This line from Amazon's blurb may say it best: "This novel is a love letter to a garden and a hymn to lost things."

3.5 out of 5 stars.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Best Boy

  • A Novel
  • By: Eli Gottlieb
  • Narrated by: Bronson Pinchot
  • Length: 7 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,545
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,413
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,414

Sent to a "therapeutic community" for autism at the age of 11, Todd Aaron, now in his '50s, is the "old fox" of Payton Living Center. A joyous man who rereads the encyclopedia compulsively, he is unnerved by the sudden arrivals of a menacing new staffer and a disruptive, brain-injured roommate. His equilibrium is further worsened by Martine, a one-eyed new resident who has romantic intentions and convinces him to go off his meds to feel "normal" again.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Good but with a Couple O' Caveats...

  • By Gillian on 04-27-16

Another Autism Story, More or Less

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-16-17

Todd Aaron, a man in his 40s, has spent so much time in an institution (Peyton Living Center) that he is known as one of their "ambassadors," assigned to give tours to incoming patients. It's never exactly stated what Todd's problem is, but clearly he is on the autism spectrum. His voice (as narrated by Bronson Pinchot) is flat, except when he is overly anxious or afraid; he doesn't like to be touched; he has some odd habits and practices repetitive gestures. Things happen to and around Todd, but he doesn't react as most people would; he has little sense of appropriate v. inappropriate and is often taken advantage of This is his story, narrated by Todd from the perspective of the world as he sees it. He takes us back to memories of the father who brutalized him, the mother who loved him and carted him off to a series of doctors and institutions, the brother who was cruel to him. We see what it's like for Todd to almost fall in love with the one-eyed Martine, to long to be welcomed into his brother's home, to fear the staff member he calls Mike the Apron.

Call me jaded, but I found this novel just a bit too sweet and many of the characters stereotypical. I stuck with it to the end, but overall, it was a mediocre read/listen for me.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful