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by Cormac McCarthy
Narrated by Tom Stechschulte
6 hours, 41 minutes
Recorded Books Inc 2007 6 hours, 41 minutes
Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2007
When I heard of Cormac McCarthy’s death on June 13, I felt compelled to read again this most memorable of books. Terrifyingly memorable, I must say. The excellent movie starring Will Smith had seared mental images that fogged those created by McCarthy’s words. Describing a world destroyed by fire, McCarthy creates more than a visual scene. The reader can smell the air, hear the silence and feel the melted terrain underfoot. The day-by-day struggle of the man and young son is heartbreaking. it’s not for the faint of heart. Still the man’s will to survive and to convince his son of the existence of the “good guys” is heartwarming, The narration allows a greater intimacy than could the printed text. Maybe too intimate for some.
The Last Chairlift
by John Irving
Narrated by a cast
Simon & Schuster Audio October 2022 32 hours, 46 minutes
The life of Irving’s Adam runs parallel to the author’s own years and to my own, fueling my interest. Irving’s skill in creating a scene so imaginative and visual, and often hilarious, amazes and amuses again and again. His cast of characters, every one, is unique and sometimes exquisite. Of course, Irving pushes through the norms of sexual identity and sexual politics, toward reimagining family as bonded by love. Some readers and listeners thrive in such a long immersive book. Here, Irving teases and tests even his most devoted fans. The death scenes are heart stoppers and Irving’s core kindness touches the heart. It was only when I heard him speak recently at the University of Iowa that I grasped the Moby Dick flourish. I groaned when wrestling was somehow wrestled into the tale he tells. And as I struggled to be open minded about Irving inviting ghosts into Adam’s world, I chuckled in agreement with the critic who likened The Last Chairlift to “an overstuffed chair.
You Have to be Prepared to Die Before You Can Begin to Live: Ten Weeks in Birmingham That Changed America
by Paul Kix
Narrated by Jaime Lincoln-Smith
Macmillan Audio 10 hours 20 minutes
This book left me feeling I had gained a deeper understanding of the civil rights movement than I had gotten from all the sweeping histories and probing bios. From the archives, oral accounts, and attics of Birmingham’s environs, Kix brings to life the dynamics of strategic decision making in Martin Luther King’s inner circle. They wrestled with King’s absolute commitment to nonviolence, and with other Black justice groups and inspirational leaders on how to maneuver public opinion to move Robert and John Kennedy to take national action. Kix is a dynamic writer, knowing how to move the reader along with short sentences and short chapters. The narrator is Black, appropriate for the many oral history quotes. Kix was warmly received by the audience at a June 2023 AVID reading. He tells of an Iowa farm boy who has a Black Texan family and is committed to giving us a thorough account of what happened in Birmingham in 1963.
Oh William: A Novel
by Elizabeth Strout
narrated by Kimberly Farr
Penguin Random House 2021 7 hours
Booker Prize Finalist Best BookLists: NYT, Washington Post, Time
It feels to me that Elizabeth and I are long-time friends, she took me into the worlds of Olive Kitteridge and Lucy Barton. For Oh William, Elizabeth writes in the first person, bringing Lucy Barton to life telling her story in the form of a novel, the familiar mode of Lucy Barton the acclaimed novelist. Strout’s Lucy recounts her emotional history with her first husband William and her recently deceased second husband. This is not a noisy hot-blooded story.
Nobody sees ghosts. It’s so quiet and nuanced some readers may nod off. It seemed that Lucy was talking directly to me in a warmly intimate Judy Dench-voice. Oh William holds its own as a standalone book although the reader’s experience is enhanced by reading Strout’s other Lucy books, My Name is Lucy Barton and Anything Can Happen. I doubt if younger readers will be particularly engaged in this elderly woman’s reflections on disappointment and loss of love. But as Lucy showed us, Anything Can Happen – Lucy may become a role model for millennials on how to change one’s life.