Reading while driving is the best! No, not like that guy! Listening to audiobooks, of course. I love to read, but it’s hard to find the time with little kids always demanding your attention, so a wonderful side-effect of my long commute time has been a re-immersion into the world of books. I’ve been listening to quite a few books on CD to pass the time during my new commute. Here is a brief description of each one from my library’s website, and my thoughts.
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
After their daughter Maribel suffers a near-fatal accident, the Riveras leave Mexico and come to America. But upon settling at Redwood Apartments, a two-story cinderblock complex just off a highway in Delaware, they discover that Maribel’s recovery-the piece of the American Dream on which they’ve pinned all their hopes-will not be easy. Every task seems to confront them with language, racial, and cultural obstacles. At Redwood also lives Mayor Toro, a high school sophomore whose family arrived from Panama fifteen years ago. Mayor sees in Maribel something others do not: that beyond her lovely face, and beneath the damage she’s sustained, is a gentle, funny, and wise spirit. But as the two grow closer, violence casts a shadow over all their futures in America. Peopled with deeply sympathetic characters, this poignant yet unsentimental tale of young love tells a riveting story of unflinching honesty and humanity that offers a resonant new definition of what it means to be an American.
In one way, this story so mundane, just the everyday lives of people and their normal struggles with school, work, relationships. But if you’ve never thought about what it’s like to be an immigrant in the US, this book will give you a very intimate look into that world. Each chapter is written from a different character’s perspective, and I loved that the recording used an ensemble cast to represent all the different voices of the story. Read it and expand your world.
The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern, narrated by Jim Dale
Waging a fierce competition for which they have trained since childhood, circus magicians Celia and Marco unexpectedly fall in love with each other and share a fantastical romance that manifests in fateful ways.
My thoughts — All the narrators I’ve heard so far have been excellent, but Jim Dale is in a category all his own. How can I describe his voice? I think listening to him say “chocolate” might actually be better than eating chocolate. Amazing.
This book was so fun to listen to. The author created an amazing magical world that I became totally immersed in while reading. I was disappointed in the ending though — it was as if the author got so focused on writing about the setting that she forgot to come up with a resolution for the main plot line that was as well done as the rest of the book. Worth the read – I think Harry Potter fans would especially enjoy it.
Life after Life by Kate Atkinson
What if you could live again and again, until you got it right? On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways.
My thoughts — I abandoned about halfway through — listening to the main character die over and over again was just too depressing. I also found it really predictable — I correctly guessed twice how she would die next, and I am really not good at that sort of thing. Two thumbs down.
Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier
At the age of twelve, under the Wind moon, Will is given a horse, a key, and a map, and sent alone into the Indian Nation to run a trading post as a bound boy. It is during this time that he grows into a man, learning, as he does, of the raw power it takes to create a life, to find a home. In a card game with a white Indian named Featherstone, Will wins a mysterious girl named Claire. As Will’s destiny intertwines with the fate of the Cherokee Indians, including a Cherokee Chief named Bear, he learns how to fight and survive in the face of both nature and men, and eventually, under the Corn Tassel Moon, Will begins the fight against Washington City to preserve the Cherokee’s homeland and culture. And he will come to know the truth behind his belief that only desire trumps time.
This book is the perfect antidote to too many British novels and narrators in a row! I love historical fiction and Charles Frazier does it very well (remember Cold Mountain?). Highly recommend, especially if you’re interested in Native Americans, the Trail of Tears, or the Civil War time period.