Saturday, March 26, 2011

An Outstanding Audiobook

This novel definitely falls into the category of one that I knew I ought to listen to but The Helpwasn’t too excited about.  In fact, I had it on My Holds for months before the download became available.  (My personal rule is that I save my one Audible credit a month for a book that I cannot download free, no matter how long it takes. Since I now have two library sources, my waits should shorten.)  Once I got started with this one, I had earphones on every available minute, even waking up in the middle of the night to get up and listen.  The audio performance was outstanding, and the subject matter was compelling. 
I lived in a Southern state in the early 1960s.  The years in this book were my junior high and high school years.  However, I lived in the northern, fairly sparsely- populated and later-settled part of that state.  I attended the first public school in Texas to integrate, back before I started to school.  The Black community in our town was very small anyway although there was a fairly large community of Hispanics from Mexico.  Were these people treated as second-class citizens? Yes. Was this so culturally ingrained that most of us were unaware that was what was happening?  Mostly.  Do some of the same problems exist today?  Yes.  However, our culture never had the complicated rules of behavior of places that had been part of the Old South.  I remember going to the Capitol in Austin in the spring of 1964 and being utterly shocked at the idea of separate rest rooms and drinking fountains.  (I also remember taking my own daughter to the Capitol when she was about the same age.  We were in the new underground part and visited a beautifully tiled restroom.  I mentioned to her how shocked I had been to see the Black and White restrooms on my first visit.  She looked around her at the lovely neutral color scheme and said, “I see what you mean.  I like this tile much better than black and white.”  I’m not sure that she entirely believed me when I explained, and I hope it was because she was growing up in a different and better time.)
The Goodreads summary is fairly accurate regarding the outline of the plot of this book. I don't wish to include spoilers in reviewing it, so I won't say much more about the plot.
Because the point of view of this novel shifts from one of the main women characters to another, the choice of multiple readers for the narrative was a wise one.  But this audiobook goes much farther.  Because these fine actresses use their skills to bring minor characters to life, the listener has the feeling of hearing a more extensive cast.  In short, this is a novel that is beautifully suited to audiobook presentation and the producers did an excellent job. 
The background of the book is daily life in Jackson, Mississippi, during the turbulent 1960s days of the Civil Rights movement.  Against the backdrop of Vietnam, political assassinations, the spread of air conditioning, the influence of television, birth control, changes in the role of women, and civil rights demonstrations, each individual citizen must come to terms with morality and change.  It is so easy now to take the attitude that the choices in that day and location would have been easy ones, but this novel makes the reader examine himself and how he would have fared in that culture and how he faces similar situations today.  The author has given us what is very much another version of Twain's "good heart v. deformed conscience" debate.
In short, this book is indeed a good read, but I suspect it is an even better listen.

Knitting—still on the Clapotis.  I got so involved listening that I failed to check off my chart and had to tink five rows to get back on track.


Deb said...

I couldn't put this book down when I read it!

MarthaH said...

Last Fall, when I was doing a lot of driving back and forth between our old house in MD and our new one in VA, this book kept me alert and awake on many a mile. It is a fabulous listen!

ChelleC said...

I loved that book too! Excellent read. I did it as an audio and the reader was so talented.