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Publisher's Summary

Named one of the most anticipated books of the season by The Washington Post and Publishers Weekly

When Apollo Kagwa's father disappeared, all he left his son were strange recurring dreams and a box of books stamped with the word improbabilia. Now Apollo is a father himself - and as he and his wife, Emma, are settling into their new lives as parents, exhaustion and anxiety start to take their toll. Apollo's old dreams return, and Emma begins acting odd. Irritable and disconnected from their new baby boy, at first Emma seems to be exhibiting signs of postpartum depression, but it quickly becomes clear that her troubles go even deeper. Before Apollo can do anything to help, Emma commits a horrific act - beyond any parent's comprehension - and vanishes, seemingly into thin air.

Thus begins Apollo's odyssey through a world he only thought he understood, to find a wife and child who are nothing like he'd imagined. His quest, which begins when he meets a mysterious stranger who claims to have information about Emma's whereabouts, takes him to a forgotten island, a graveyard full of secrets, a forest where immigrant legends still live, and finally back to a place he thought he had lost forever.

This captivating retelling of a classic fairy tale imaginatively explores parental obsession, spousal love, and the secrets that make strangers out of the people we love the most. It's a thrilling and emotionally devastating journey through the gruesome legacies that threaten to devour us and the homely, messy magic that saves us, if we're lucky.

©2017 Victor LaValle (P)2017 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"If the literary gods mixed together Haruki Murakami and Ralph Ellison, the result would be Victor LaValle." (Anthony Doerr, author of All the Light We Cannot See)
"A dark fairy tale of New York, full of magic and loss, myth and mystery, love and madness. The Changeling is a mesmerizing, monumental work." (Marlon James, author of A Brief History of Seven Killings)
"LaValle has a knack for blending social realism with genre tropes, and this blend of horror story and fatherhood fable is surprising and admirably controlled.... LaValle has successfully delivered a tale of wonder and thoughtful exploration of what it means to be a parent. A smart and knotty merger of horror, fantasy, and realism." ( Kirkus Reviews)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Diane
  • Louisville, KY, United States
  • 08-07-17

Fractured Fairytale

So this is what a fairytale for grownups looks like--full of the darkest horror with wishes for a happy ending. I had very much looked forward to this book as I am a great believer in the truths that can be learned from folktales, fairy tales, mythology and the like, but this attempt at a modern re-telling did not work especially well for me.

After a painfully slow start, the story gathers steam with the subway birth of a baby which eventually devolves into a nightmare experience of parenthood. Yes, parenthood does teach us much about ourselves--from newly discovered feelings of intense love and protectiveness, to feelings of alienation and horror at the degree of rage and even impulses to violence we are capable of feeling. In the manner of fairytales, LaValle externalizes these negative feelings, embodying them in monsters and their minions, making it possible to commit the most horrific of acts and still be the perfect parent. I suppose that the author intends to embody Emma's feelings of intense love for her baby while simultaneously feeling overwhelmingly alienated from both her child and husband (postpartum depression?) but I still find her response to these dark forces hard to accept.

I did enjoy the use of NYC to create a dreamlike setting and the use of technology as a backdrop. As for the narration, this is an occasion where the author would have been better leaving it up to others--fairly expressionless and with little effort to distinguish among the characters.

31 of 32 people found this review helpful

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

When Papa was away at a book sale...

11.03.2017
I think I'm a 1/3 of the way through this book so far.
I love this book, even more so because I've just had the singular experience of stopping an audiobook and jotting down Patrice's slow cooker lemon chicken recipe and I'm now making it for dinner. I have never cooked from a novel. I'm excited.

11.10.2017
This book was incredible and listening to LaValle narrate it was incredible. The melding of myth and now was amazing and I wasn't even mentally tsk tsking over how the use of an iPhone or referencing Maurice Sendak will date the novel in the future because this story is timeless and it doesn't matter.
We had lemon chicken and olives again tonight.

AUDIBLE 20 REVIEW SWEEPSTAKES ENTRY

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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

The Weirdest, Most Wonderful Damn Book

The Changeling is by far the book I want to shower all my love on in 2017. I want to hug strangers in the street and whisper in their ears how amazing this audiobook is, that it’s one of the weirdest, most wonderful damn books I’ve listened to in a long time. At the heart of this modern-day fairy tale is Apolla Kagwa, a scrappy book dealer and devoted dad who wears a Baby Bjorn all over New York City and takes his infant to the playground at 4:30 every morning. After a horrific chain of events, Apollo loses his wife and son, and—wrecked with grief—sets out across the 5 boroughs on an epic quest to rescue and redeem them. The path is strewn with witches, monsters, and trolls (both the fairy tale kind and the internet kind), and Kagwa’s New York is both recognizable and completely fantastical. Victor LaValle is one of those unicorn novelists who happens to be a fabulous narrator of his own work, and as he reads you this story, his voice is like magic and butter. Above all, The Changeling is one black man’s ode to fatherhood and the lengths to which he will go to protect his family.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Interesting Fairy Tale Told Well

I'm amazed that anyone can read so slowly. I had to adjust the audio to 1.5x and still it sounded close to normal speech. But the prose was expertly crafted and the story kept my attention, even when there seemed lapses in time or logic. I also bought the hardbound novel, switching back and forth between them, and I think I enjoyed reading it more than listening to the author.

17 of 19 people found this review helpful

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

I'm surprised I made it to the end

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

A different narrator and faster pacing.

Has The Changeling turned you off from other books in this genre?

No, I usually love this sort of magic realism, but this one dragged.

What aspect of Victor LaValle’s performance would you have changed?

I would've liked more variable characterization. There was only one character that I noticed any vocal difference from the others. As it was, the narration was kind of droning. There are many times that it lulled me to sleep. Not very dynamic.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

A good premise, but it didn't really follow through for me.

Any additional comments?

I normally NEVER write reviews for ANYTHING so you should know that I mean what I say here. The author narration didn't bother me that much but I'm sure it was a factor in my mediocre reaction to the book. My main gripe about The Changeling is pacing. It took soooooo long for anything to happen, and even when it started I didn't feel much urgency on behalf of the characters. If I had been reading the physical book I definitely would've given up. But with the audiobook it's easy to just leave it on in the background while driving, etc., and get on with it. Also, I found the violence in the last section pretty unnecessary. That sort of thing doesn't usually bug me but I found it gratuitous in this case.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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imagination unbound

This book is crafted with care by someone who obviously was a skald, or a bard, or a storyteller in another life. I don't know Victor Lavalle's other work but this story draws you in and makes you want to listen; want to know what happens next. In part (of course) because the author reads his own work - and compels you to listen by the simple inflections of tone. Thanks V.L. I really enjoyed it.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

unexpressive monotone narrative voice

I think this is a great story & the author a brilliant writer. But I tried to get thru listening to the book & every time the author who is also the narrator put me to sleep every time. I think for me reading the book instead of listening would have been more enjoyable. Reading allows you to use your imagination to bring the characters voices & expressions to life to suit your own satisfaction. I am aware that I may not be a reader who is as intellectually astute and sophisticated as many readers who critique review or edit professionally. But to me narrating a book is no different than performing a play or portraying a character in a movie. That character needs to come alive in order to be loved or hated or laughed at or cried for by the reader.

3 of 3 people found this review 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 Book I've Listened to This Year

This book was recommended by a facebook group and I really wasn't interested but decided to give it a chance....so glad I did. The writing is just beautiful and the characters are richly drawn. I knew nothing about the story going in and that was part of the fun - I really had no idea where the story was going but what a ride!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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

Thrilling and full of emotions

The book starts out a little slow but it always has your attention simply by building up the environment and the characters so I see the necessity of it. You really do learn to love the main character and his horrific dilemma. The story took me on a roller coaster ride of emotions: sad, angry, nervous, worried, hopeful...etc. and some parts of the story were so imaginative that sometimes I found myself questioning "that just can't and doesn't happen in real life..?" And I also questioned so much of the story because as a plain mortal human being stuck too much in reality, it was hard to accept. I was just OCD the whole time. But that was the beauty of it, Lavalle forced me to imagine beyond my world and what I perceive at face value, that perhaps there really is more than meets the eye. An odyssey adventure indeed.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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

Urban Fantasy of the Capital "L" Literature Crowd

This is an excellent book, well written, passionate, and enough autobiographical details to make the protagonist seem real. LaValle has a gift for words and spins some spectacular metaphors and similes. The fantastical elements are subtle and not overused.

Narration - I cringe when authors insist on reading their works (I'm looking at you Jeff Lindsay and Stephen King), but you would think LaValle was a voice actor. He does an amazing job and adds to the production with a tone, pacing, and insight that only the author can apply correctly.

Overall this was a great book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful