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Publisher's Summary

When she is thirteen years old, Evalina Toussaint, the orphaned child of an exotic dancer in New Orleans, is admitted as a mental patient to Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. The year is 1936, and the hospital, under the direction of celebrity psychiatrist Robert S. Carroll, is famous for its up-to-the-minute shock therapies and for Dr. Carroll's revolutionary theory of the benefits of non-introspection.

Evalina finds herself in the midst of a kaleidoscope of characters, including the estranged wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Her role as accompanist for all theatricals and programs at the hospital gives her privileged insight into the events that transpire over the twelve years leading up to a tragic 1948 fire - its mystery unsolved to this day - that killed nine women in a locked ward on the top floor, including Zelda.

In Evalina Toussaint, Lee Smith has a created a narrator whose story is one of unstoppable and defiant introspection. At the risk of Dr. Carroll's ire and at all costs, Evalina listens, observes, delves, pursues, accompanies, remembers - and tells us everything. This is her wildly prescient story about a time and a place where creativity and passion, theory and medicine, fact and fiction are luminously intertwined.

©2013 Lee Smith. Recorded by arrangement with Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, a division of Workman Publishing Company, Inc. (P)2013 HighBridge Company

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • William
  • Winston Salem, NC, United States
  • 04-07-15

Typical Lee Smith Excellence

I enjoyed this book very much, in no small part because my great grandmother was at Highland during the period of the novel. Lee Smith gives us her usual rich characters with interesting back-stories. The reader is quite good, but some of her mispronunciations makes one wonder if the editor was out for bagels.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • T. Peppel
  • Tifton, GA United States
  • 05-14-15

Lee Smith does it again.

A Lee Smith novel is always a safe bet in the sense that she does not disappoint. I never know what type of tale she will tell, but they are always intriguing and tend to stay with you long after the narrator's voice has faded. Guests on Earth shows us us the up close and personal side of mental illness from the perspective of a young woman who deals with it from within and around her. Mostly set in the beautiful and somewhat isolated Asheville, NC in the first half of the 20th century, we watch the unfolding events in her life and the people around her, and how they help and heal each other as best they are able. A great listen that I would recommend to anyone.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
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A book I will long remember

Being a live-long western North Carolina resident, the only thing I ever knew about Highland Hospital was that Zelda had died there in a fire - and there is so much more to know. Lee Smith has done the research for me, along with her first hand knowledge of Highland, having had family members who were residents at various times. I don't know when I have enjoyed a book so much. The narrator was terrific in spite of occasional mispronunciations, which could be jarring to a native. But she more than made up for that with her just-right narration of this book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Great old southern songs butchered

Where does Guests on Earth rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Somewhere in the middle, good story, wonderful characters

What was one of the most memorable moments of Guests on Earth?

The description of shows performed by patients

Would you listen to another book narrated by Emily Woo Zeller?

Depends on if the story has any old songs

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

When she described having and losing her baby

Any additional comments?

Whenever lyrics were used for old classic southern songs, there was a hiccup in the narration. With just a little research, the narrator could have used the actual tune or at least the proper rhythm of the song. Very disappointing! The songs could have been a big part of the story.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Entertaining

The story line & characters held my interest. I thought the narrator did a good job with her voice & characters. This was a book that my bookclub chose. It was enjoyable & thought provoking concerning mental health.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Classic Lee Smith

Smith never disappoints. Excellent narration, but I missed the authentic southern accent of the author.

  • Overall
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  • Story

Lee Smith is amazing

What made the experience of listening to Guests on Earth the most enjoyable?

I have yet to find a novel by Lee Smith that did not please me. This one in particular did not have that really familiar feel that I associate with growing up southern but it was a wonderful story. Beautifully written, interesting emotionally detached style letting your imagination fill in the lines. It seemed very real.

What did you like best about this story?

Ashville is a beautiful area.

Have you listened to any of Emily Woo Zeller’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I had not heard her narration before but I enjoyed it.

  • Overall
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  • Story

Rather Disjointed

Certainly not my favourite Lee Smith novel. Stories within stories kept me listening, however, there seemed to be no moral to any of them. The narration was passable, but being from the Carolinas myself, I found myself cringing throughout. I would not recommend this book to friends or family. I fear they would be as disappointed as I was.

  • Overall
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  • Story

Great story!

Any additional comments?

The story is wonderfully written. However, the narrator has a terrible and distracting Scottish accent for one of the characters. It comes across as this jarring cross between Irish and Russian. Really distracting. Luckily this character does not talk much.

  • Overall
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  • Story

Enjoyable but not memorable

Enjoyable story with good narration, but nothing memorable. I never felt emotional connection to Evaline, the main character, and that detracted from the impact of the story.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful