Bowlaway

A Novel
Narrated by: Kate Reading
Length: 12 hrs and 52 mins
Categories: Fiction, Historical
3.5 out of 5 stars (150 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A sweeping and enchanting new novel from the widely beloved, award-winning author Elizabeth McCracken about three generations of an unconventional New England family who own and operate a candlepin bowling alley.

From the day she is discovered unconscious in a New England cemetery at the turn of the 20th century - nothing but a bowling ball, a candlepin, and 15 pounds of gold on her person - Bertha Truitt is an enigma to everyone in Salford, Massachusetts. She has no past to speak of, or at least none she is willing to reveal, and her mysterious origin scandalizes and intrigues the townspeople, as does her choice to marry and start a family with Leviticus Sprague, the doctor who revived her. But Bertha is plucky, tenacious, and entrepreneurial, and the bowling alley she opens quickly becomes Salford’s most defining landmark - with Bertha its most notable resident.

When Bertha dies in a freak accident, her past resurfaces in the form of a heretofore-unheard-of son, who arrives in Salford claiming he is heir apparent to Truitt Alleys. Soon, it becomes clear that, even in her death, Bertha’s defining spirit and the implications of her obfuscations live on, infecting and affecting future generations through inheritance battles, murky paternities, and hidden wills.

In a voice laced with insight and her signature sharp humor, Elizabeth McCracken has written an epic family saga set against the backdrop of 20th-century America. Bowlaway is both a stunning feat of language and a brilliant unraveling of a family’s myths and secrets, its passions and betrayals, and the ties that bind and the rifts that divide.

©2019 Elizabeth McCracken (P)2019 HarperCollins Publishers

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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

Quirky tale of a legacy of an eccentric.

This somewhat rambling tale is populated by an entertaining collection of eccentric people, who seem to be thrown into each other's lives by a candlepin bowling alley! Expect it to be a little confusing. Towards the last quarter of the book, it becomes quite humorous and lively, which I wish it had been from the start. Don't expect to like the characters either! What I liked about the book was the imaginative storytelling and details such as the eight sided house, the molasses flood (a real event) the odd doll carved out of bowling pins and other details that I don't want to give away.

5 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Best Novel of 2019/Best Narration by Kate Reading!

Dickens meets Updike meets the inimitable Elizabeth McCracken. All of her books are joyous and her memoir was piercing but Bowlaway proves that she has only gotten better. This is a genealogy of a family -- the Truitts -- with a variety of ghosts and wonderful happenings. A delicious story that HOOKS you and Kate Reading brings it to life in magical and perfect ways, as always. McCracken is a genius and we are the beneficiary. I never want it to end.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Good writer-

So strange to listen to a book by a very good writer but not to care a wit about most of the characters in the story. To me, the story had great potential that wasn’t realized due to lack of empathy for the characters.

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

An epically poetic family narrative...

Candlepin bowling set to poetry in a fantastical New England setting...McCracken's wordsmittery when wound up in Reading's warm yet matter of factual delivery definitely had me hitting the back back button several times. Many passages of this tale lean much more toward the poetic and are lovely to listen to. Admittedly, the meandering and epic nature of the story had me wondering at its well, "weirdness." Overall I enjoyed the characters offered up at the outset, but found some of their progeny to be less interesting, with the offshoot narratives dragging some for me. The choice of oddly-paired wording and the colorful matriarch of the story, Bertha Truitt, carried me through however.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic multigenerational story

it was wonderful. Fascinating story with many plot surprises. loved the ending. Not one character left unfinished

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Very Disappointing

I gave up on this about 9 hours into the almost 13 hour book. I NEVER do that, but I was actually getting more and more irritated each day that I listened to this on my daily commute. Look at the reviews of this book on Goodreads before you purchase it. I wish I had!

I thought the book had promise in the first couple hours but then it becomes more and more of a rambling and pointless mess with each chapter. The narrator is fine but the story is really bad.

3 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Aw
  • 03-01-20

Started strong

The story fizzled after the primary character died, far too soon in the novel. The remaining characters had no redeeming qualities whatsoever,and though the writing was really good, the story just fell flat.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

quirky characters do not a story make

I couldn't wait for this book to be over. McCracken is obviously a pantser with an eye for detail and description. Her characters are intriguing and you don't know what is going to happen next. There's a touch of magical realism about how the main character arrives, but that is undercut later in the book when her ex-husband shows up. Also, since the characters are too quirky to relate to, I didn't care what happened to them. Deaths were arbitrary and even amusing but lacking in impact. One character's possible role in a death is resolved with introducing a new character which also explains an oddity of the main character. The heir of the bowling alley seems to be accepted without the most rudimentary investigation (birth certificate.) So many plot threads are introduced but not really explored in any depth: interracial marriage, toxic grief (off stage spontaneous combustion), handicapped characters, orphans or abandoned children, etc. I suppose in life these things are among us and we don't get a view into their impact, but the writer's distance from the characters and the many plot threads dilute any impact as well.

Is there a point to all this meandering storyline?

As I said, I couldn't wait for this book to end, which it fizzles to finally.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Terrible! Weird! Waste of time and money!

Weird, couldn’t follow one character! I’m still not sure what this book was about...don’t waste a precious credit!

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

do not like the narrator

I did not listen to this book. I do not like this narrator. I would not have bought it if I had realized that she was the narrator. I did send the book back.

1 person found this helpful