Fleeing a turbulent Guatemala with her missionary parents, Penny returns to America and is forced to deal with a fresh kind of trauma: summer Bible camp for Mennonite teens. Along with her outspoken and rebellious friend, Gina, Penny struggles to deal with her past, the camp's fierce regulations, and the sexual energy that electrifies the air between the campers, counselors, and even visitors. This coming-of-age story offers an intimate look into a young girl’s attempt to find her place and start figuring out which rules are worth breaking.
Ploughshares, the literary magazine of Emerson College.
Penny is a young Mennonite girl sent to summer camp for a week by her parents. She's convinced her friend Gina to come along with her and it's a huge surprise for them both. No swimming, not even baths, showers, or water to wash clothes. As they deal with the boredom of a religious camp circa 1980; Gina is faced with raging hormones and Penny with the memories of her last day in Guatemala. This story is a sweet look at the a slice of a young girl's life as she tries to deal with culture shock, her memories, and the pain of becoming an adult.
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Would you consider the audio edition of Small Country to be better than the print version?
The only reason the audio edition is not better than the print version is because the narrator's pronunciation of Spanish is horrible! If the listener has never taken an introductory Spanish course, the listener will not detect anything is wrong. However, anyone with even a basic level of Spanish proficiency will not only cringe, but find the pronunciation unintelligible. When Penny, the protagonist, encounters Lucas, a fellow M.K. (missionary kid) from Honduras, they engage in a casual conversation about Guatemala, Honduras, and the common aspects of Central America they know and share. In the written story, this is a a wonderful moment for Penny, who is trying to navigate unfamiliar territory -- US culture, her rural and conservative Mennonite heritage, and adolescent sexual expression. Unfortunately, the Spanish is so poorly pronounced by the voice artist that I couldn't understand the Spanish being used. When the narrator then provides the English translation I was amazed at how the words were butchered. What the reader of Small Country identifies as a moment of hope for Penny in the written story, becomes, for the Spanish proficient listener, an extremely awkward, cringe-worthy sequence of events.What would have just been a misfortune early in the story when the Spanish is used in casual conversation, absolutely destroys the climax of the story. King beautifully weaves two dramatic climaxes together, a real-time event prompting a vivid flashback. Unfortunately for the Spanish-proficient listener, the incredible climactic build is dashed by Holloway's unfortunate mispronunciation of "señor" (saynyor) spoken by a Guatemalan character as "senior" (SEEnyor). The recording is painful.If you haven't guessed by now. This audiobook needs to be re-recorded. The current narration does not do justice to the storyline.
What did you like best about this story?
King has created a story that is as vibrant and complex as a Guatemalan huipil. At the same moment that we are laughing with Penny through her awkwardness our hearts wrench with understanding her desire to belong and to find something familiar. At the same moment in which Penny is confronting a great moral and developmental dilemma, she is processing monumental moments from her past. King manages to weave elements of Penny's past into the present in order to create a story which is funny, heart-wrenching, triumphant, and familiar to anyone who has been caught between two cultures.
Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Casey Holloway?
I am not certain who I would have cast as a narrator. However, whoever is in charge of casting voice talent, or whoever served as producer for this audio recording, REALLY needs to do quality control of "bilingual" voice talent.
If you could take any character from Small Country out to dinner, who would it be and why?
Penny. While it's not a Guatemalan meal, Penny deserves to chow down on some papusas and forget the difficulties of navigating adolescence and cultural identity.
Would you listen to Small Country again? Why?
Small Country is a fascinating tale, written with perfect pitch. Penny and Gina are portrayed spot-on as young teenage girls trying to figure out and satisfy their curiosities about boys, with Gina acting as guide to the clueless Penny. King's word choices/phrases reminded me of teenage girls, ringing true to my ears. I love the deeper challenges which plague Penny. Without this deeper well of Penny's search for understanding right and wrong, truth and meaning, the story would feel shallow. As it is, King has crafted a story worth coming back to again and again.
What was one of the most memorable moments of Small Country?
Many, but for me my heart caught when Penny was trying to understand her confusion between her dark memories from the gunmen in Guatemala, her dad's anguish, her mom's ever-present tears vis-a-vis her mind helplessly drifting toward thinking about a boy's "thing." Her chaotic feelings of embarrassment, guilt and confusion were so palpable. I could sense her processing and growing up as the story progressed.
Have you listened to any of Casey Holloway’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
I loved Holloway's voices. She made the story easy to follow by even having a masculine quality when she was speaking the male lines. Great choice for narrator! Fantastic diction. I never had to re-wind to understand what had been said.