Posts filed under ‘Audiobooks’
Pub Date: July 2013
416 pgs. / 12 audio discs
What Alice Forgot:
Pub Date: January 2009
496 pgs. / 13 audio discs
Lately I have been listening to more and more audio books (with a toddler, I would love to be able to sit down and read more often but that is easier said than done!), and recently devoured this double-serving of Liane Moriarty, an author new to me. She is now one of my new favorite authors and I am eagerly looking forward to her next book (Big Little Lies, just published this month!).
I started with What Alice Forgot, on the recommendation of a patron. The narrative follows Alice Love, 29 years old, happily married and about to give birth to her first child. One day she wakes up on the floor of her gym after a fall and a bump on the head. She sees friends and family members she recognizes, but they react to her strangely. Instead of commenting on her pregnancy, they are talking about her three kids, her impending divorce, and her upcoming 40th birthday. What happened to Alice’s life? How did she get here?
What follows is Alice’s attempt to piece together the previous 10 years. Moriarty’s novel is well-paced and by turns funny and poignant, thought-provoking and engaging. Tamara Lovatt-Smith’s narration is delightful. She deftly portrays the point of view of not only Alice, but also Alice’s long-suffering sister Elisabeth and their heartsick grandmother Franny. Not to mention I could listen to her lilting Australian accent all day. I almost couldn’t bear to turn the novel off!
The Husband’s Secret, one of last summers most buzzed-about titles, is three intertwining narratives of three separate women: Cecelia, Rachel, and Tess. Cecelia accidentally comes across a letter written to her by her husband to be opened only in the event of his death. Cecelia’s husband is still alive….and Cecelia can’t stop thinking about the letter. Like Pandora before her, Cecelia opens it. And the consequences for the three women begin.
This was a darker book that has elements of a thriller in parts, but retains Moriarty’s engaging, well-written female (and male) characters and her gift for depicting complicated relationships. The audio version’s narration by Caroline Lee is equally captivating. Fans of Jojo Moyes, Kristen Hannah, and Sue Miller would enjoy Moriarty’s books.
Here is a tribute to the power of audiobooks, if there ever was one. I have a feeling that if I’d read the print version of this memoir by Tina Fey, I would have given the book maybe 3 stars out of 5. Not because Fey isn’t funny, but because her slightly disorganized, stream-of-consciousness style may feel lacking in book form. The audio version, however, gets a full 5 stars. This is because it is narrated by Tina Fey herself, a natural performer. Listening to, rather than reading, Fey’s musings feels like consuming them in their purest form.
Fey’s subject matter is lightly told and feels somewhat insubstantial at times. She weaves scant traces of memoir–that is, stories of her upbringing and her family–in with more general anecdotes about her time on Saturday Night Live, her TV show, 30 Rock, and her experiences as the mother of a young daughter. It’s something to page through, a few pages at a time, but not something to sit down and be absorbed in cover-to-cover.
But as an audiobook, her format works beautifully. I popped it in my car stereo before a car trip with my mom–it was just before Mother’s Day–and we started laughing almost immediately. From Fey’s stories of the drama camp she attended as a teenager, to her work with Chicago improv troupe Second City; from a love letter to fellow comedian Amy Poehler to a list of prayers for her 5-year-old daughter (“First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches”), Fey gets it so, so, right. The beauty of the audiobook is that you get every accent, every pause, and every drip of sarcasm so perfectly conveyed. (As a bonus, all of the pictures of Fey that are included in her book, childhood and otherwise, are included with the audiobook as pdfs on a disc. Also, the entire recording of Fey and Poehler’s famous skit as Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton.)
As soon as it finished I wanted to start it all over again. And it made a great Mother’s Day gift!
I am admittedly new to the world of audiobooks, and this post spontaneously arose from my urge to share a wonderful experience I’m having – listening to Katherine Howe’s The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane on audio.
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane takes place in two separate time periods – 1692, that most infamous year of the witch trials, in Salem, MA, and 1991, next door to Salem in Marblehead, MA. Connie Goodwin, our modern heroine, has just completed her doctoral candidate qualifying exam and is preparing begin work on her thesis on American Colonialism, specifically late-seventeenth-century witchcraft. Her somewhat cartoonishly-rendered adviser, Manning Chilton, has recommended Connie track down an undiscovered primary source. Connie is wondering how she will accomplish this seemingly impossible task when her hippy-dippy mother, Grace, calls from Santa Fe and informs Connie that Connie’s grandmother’s house in Marblehead needs to be sold, pronto. So Connie moves into the crumbling, three-hundred-year-old house for the summer and lo and behold, a mystery literally falls into her lap. Picking up an old family bible, an old, hollow key falls out with a scrap of paper rolled into the barrel baring only the words Deliverance Dane. The reader is then taken along for an adventurous tale involving romance, magic, mystery and academia as Connie’s story merges with Deliverance’s.
I am absolutely enchanted listening to this, for a couple of reasons. First, the narrator, Katherine Kellgren, is excellent. Kellgren is an accomplished stage actress, and brings each character to life, from 17th-century Salem women to Connie’s crusty advisor Chilton to Connie’s new-agey mother Grace. Also, I happen to live very near where the action in the book takes place so I spend some nights wandering around Marblehead, imagining the action in the book taking place right in front of me. I am so into everything — the story, the voices, even the little musical interludes that indicate a change between Connie’s time and Deliverance’s, and I can see how I would be having a profoundly different experience had I simply sat and opened the book. Not that that would have been a bad experience–just different. I suggest experiencing this book either way–but if possible, listen to it. In Salem. In October.
Other audiobook recommendations include Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street by Michael Davis, read by Sesame cast member Carol Spinney, who voices Big Bird. Spinney’s sparkling narration takes the listener through Sesame Street’s evolution as it grew from a tiny seed of an idea planted at a mid-60’s Manhatten dinner party, through Sesame’s glory years in the 70’s and 80’s, up to its still-evolving state today. We learn the back stories of such beloved Sesame characters of Gordon, Susan, Maria–and the actors who portray them. Spinney recreates key scenes and conversations in Sesame’s history with great skill and clear affection for his material . After the last track finished, I found I immediately wanted to start it over again–which I did (another way audiobooks differ from print books, I’m finding). This under-the-radar book is a great nostalgic listen for anyone who had small children–or was a small child–in the 1970s or 80s.
Jodi Picoult‘s latest offering, Handle With Care, is also an excellent listen on audio. Charlotte and Sean O’Keefe’s 5-year-old daughter, Willow, was born with a very rare disease that makes her bones incredibly fragile and debilitating breaks all-too-common. Like many Picoult titles, this one features family turmoil and hard decisions as the O’Keefe family struggles with a wrongful-birth suit–and Charlotte must decide if it would have been better for the family had Willow not been born at all. A six-person cast performs the story’s multiple points of view — another Picoult hallmark. The cast beautifully handles the individual nuances and biases of Picoult’s emotional characterizations. Highly recommended, this is one of Picoult’s best.