An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
If you focus on the tree called “Old Hickey” as you listen to this audio book, you’ll understand the characters better, focusing less on their indecisive natures. Also, pay attention to the parents’ relationships as examples of unlikely endurance. I loved Sean Crisden’s vocal portrayals of Roy, Big Roy, Olive, Dre, Davina, and even Celestial — which makes me wonder why Eisa Davis was needed to read Celestial’s titular chapters. Crisden reads all of Celestial’s letters to Roy in prison, so that was wonky when you know Davis is part of the voice team. I tried reading part of An American Marriage in paperback, but the audio really does the characters and story more justice.
The turn of the key by ruth ware
Having listened to Imogen Church read The Woman in Cabin 10, I was excited to see her name again. Church speaks clearly and convincingly pulls off various accents. Ware’s book drops clues all over the place and tromps at a good pace, until we hit discs 8 and 9 out of 10. Ware does her thing, just like In A Dark, Dark Wood, and grinds the plot to a crawl, making me want to quit. Ware’s narrator asks the dumbest questions — multiple at a time — to speculate what was going on. “Could it be X? No, X was in X’s room. What if Y was creeping in? Y gives me a bad feeling. But what would Y’s motive be??” Lady, let the reader ask the questions. But, I carried on and was surprised by the ending, which is both more horrible and less scary that I thought it would be.
Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson
With Lesa Lockford narrating Shirley Jackson’s memoir about her life in Vermont, this lovely, charming voice comes at you. But Jackson’s writing grabs you by the front of your shirt and drags you, even though this is “just” a domestic memoir. One particular passage about Jackson, her husband, her son, her daughter, and her baby all having grippe about gave me a panic attack. Sounds innocuous, but she hit all my anxiety buttons. Jackson’s children can be wacky, sweet, and total lying shit heads. The setting is memorable: we’re pre-seat belts or car seats, people still send out their laundry and have a milkman, and Jackson at nine months pregnant continues to smoke and drink coffee. With the rhythmic writing I associate with Jackson’s novels and Lockford’s mother-of-the-year voice, I found myself enjoying (yet gripping the steering wheel) the small-town nuttiness. No wonder Shirley Jackson wrote horror.