Culture & Criticism Since 2003
THE ART OF FLOATING. Kristin Bair O’Keeffe. Brilliance Audio. O’Keeffe has created a novel that will appeal to the apprentice detective in all of us. In The Art of Floating, Sia Dane (a writer) loses her muse when she loses her husband, who seemingly disappears into thin air. Aimless, devoid of purpose, Dane ‘floats’ along, in search of something. And that’s when she finds a mute lost man on the beach. Did he wash up from the sea? Is he here to save me? Who does he belong to? The questions flow, and Dane gathers her courage, stepping forward to reclaim her life and her soul. Read by actress Christina Traister.
SWEET SANCTUARY. Shelia Walsh. Cindy Martinusen Coloma. Brilliance Audio. Set in Cottage Cove, Sweet Sanctuary tells the story of a single mother and a gifted child whose talents far exceed the world of music, telling a story of unconditional love and the beauty of giving. In the book, Wren Evans is preparing to pull up stakes and move in order to bring her son to school in Boston. But unbeknownst to her, Charlie has his mother constantly in his prayers, praying that she might reclaim some sense of inner peace. In the end, Sweet Sanctuary is about the unbreakable bond between mother and son, reminding us that wealth and success have absolutely nothing to do with the material world. Read by Ann Harrison.
CASEBOOK. Mona Simpson. Brilliance Audio. Casebook is a novel that compels on many levels, revealing the dark side of the human psyche as it mines the muck that drives most humans – namely, the sexual self and the need to know how we got here. Miles Adler-Hart is a young man caught up in these questions. And his drive to know sets him to eavesdropping on his mother Irene. But does he really want to know her dark-side secrets? Casebook unearths some hard questions; and in the end, we’re all asking the same thing: who among us has a clean heart? Outstanding direction by Ken Schmidt marks this reading by Nick Podehl.
LITTLE MERCIES. Heather Gudenkauf. Brilliance Audio. In Little Mercies, best-selling author Gudenkauf has written a story about faith and fate and the invisible threads that bind unconnected lives. Little Mercies introduces social worker Ellen Moore and 10-year-old Jenny Briard; they are suddenly thrust together by a series of events that at first seem random but are actually part and parcel of a greater destiny. As we wade through the novel that brings elements of the street to life in unadorned terms, we come to question ourselves: Just what do I owe that person sitting there in the shadows next to me? And will I ever fulfill myself if I continue to pretend he doesn’t exist? Read by Kate Rudd and Tanya Eby.
THE LEMON TABLE. Stories by Julian Barnes. Brilliance Audio. This compendium of stories is for the mature reader whose looking at the body of his life – looking at what’s been accomplished and what’s fallen short, looking at the invisible specter of time that haunts every step. For that is just what the characters in Barnes’ deep and erudite stories are doing as they sift through the final stage of life. The centerpiece of The Lemon Table is found in 19th-century Sweden, where three short conversations bellow into a universal reflection, telling a tale of regret and longing that echoes pieces of each of us. Read by Prunella Scales and Timothy West.
METROLAND. Julian Barnes. Brilliance Audio. Barnes’ power as a novelist is further showcased in Metroland: Set in 1960s London, the book is at once poignant and funny as we get to know a young man about to taste the first embers of sexuality. This story and the stumbling doubt that comes with growing up will be meaningful to all men who will have no choice but remember what cannot be suppressed. Read by Greg Wise; his delivery brings every nuance of Barnes’ gorgeous prose roaring to life.
THE SIXTEENTH OF JUNE. Maya Lang. Brilliance Audio. This is a haunting novel that reminds us of James Joyce’s The Dead. The story takes place on June 16, 2004, a day in which three people meet for a funeral and then for the annual Bloomsday party. Lang expertly puts her audience in the middle of the scene, connecting us to the characters via the motion of the moment. At once, we become Stephen’s eyes, coming to question Leo and Nora’s love. And then in the next instant, we’re in the lovers’ shoes – defending the choices that were made. The Sixteenth of June forces you to confront yourself and the who you’ve become. Nonetheless, if you can get through this book without running to your safe place, you will forever be a wiser person. Read by Julia Whelan, Will Damron and Macleod Andrews; collectively, they make you feel as if your watching a play unfold from the front row of a Broadway theater.