True Believers

 True Believers by Linda Dorrell

Set in the southern U.S. in the 1950s, this is the story of a woman using her share of an inheritance to buy an old church and fix it up for a local preacher and his congregation. There are those in the community who aren't happy with her plan, particularly her three rather unpleasant sisters who think she's foolishly throwing her money away. In spite of the town's disfavour, and a forecast storm that could destroy everything they've worked for, she and the preacher set to work, aided by a hard-working, good-looking itinerant carpenter. The three become friends but they all have secrets and their relationships are tested as these come to light. They must face the mistakes and tragedies of their pasts and hope that faith and good intentions will make things right. 

This is a story Hallmark could make into a movie, though not a Christmas one. Do they make non-Christmas movies? It has all the right ingredients - family, romance, people in need, people who want to help, and people who believe - in God, not Santa Clause, a more reasonable faith to my thinking. It's a bit cliched and predictable, but it's a nice, uplifting story many will appreciate.  

The Silent Ones

 The Silent Ones by Linda Coles 

This one is a mystery, more in the style of Agatha Christie than James Cameron. It reveals itself slowly but still stays interesting. I didn't know till I was almost finished that it's book #3 in a series about private detective, Chrissy Livingstone. Fortunately, I didn't find that made any difference at all and it held up well as a stand-alone book. 

The story begins with Chrissy and husband Adam, her sister, Julie and husband Richard, settling into a vacation rental in Ireland. They meet another vacationing couple at the local bar and spend the evening enjoying each other's company. But when Chrissy decides to drop in to say hello a few days later, they are nowhere to be found. Only their baby son, Flynn, remains in their vacation rental. Horrified at finding him abandoned, Chrissy packs him up and takes him back to their place to try and figure out what has happened to his parents. 

Because new clues are given out bit by bit, I developed a different theory every chapter or so about what was really going on, every single one of them wrong. I like it when a mystery can still surprise me. 

I enjoyed the story, implausible though it seemed at times, but I may have liked it more for the narrator's lovely Irish lilt than for the plot itself. Her voice gave it a charm I might not have found in its written form. Even after using audio books for a few years, I'm still surprised by how easy it is to overlook not-so-well-written parts when a melodious and expressive voice is reading them, and equally how an unappealing voice can ruin a book I might otherwise love. Am I influenced too much by the narrator? Should I be able to get past the voice to the content? I'd like to hear your opinions and your experience with audio books. 

The Melody

 The Melody by Jim Crace

Alfred Busi is an aging performer struggling to find purpose after the loss of his wife and his career. He lives alone in a part of town where developers want to tear down all the older homes to erect modern new high-rises. Their plans also include clearing the nearby wooded area that shelters the homeless, several species of wildlife, and according to local legend, Neanderthals, or "humanzees", a feral hybrid of wild man and animal.

When Alfred is attacked in his own home by what he believes to be a wild boy, and again later on the street near his home, it fuels the town's desire to clear the area to protect the "haves" from the dangers the "have-nots" present. And in one surreal, half-crazed day, they do just that.

There is a third party narrator through most of the book, until the last quarter when he introduces himself and finishes the book in the first person. Alfred sort of fades away toward the end; he's still there, he just isn't the main character anymore. That was disappointing.

The story deals with grief, aging, and loneliness, but it also makes a statement about humans encroaching more and more on animal habitat, and the widening gap between people of comfortable means and those who have to scavenge for their daily food. 

It's different, fascinating in sections and tedious in others. There's a dream/nightmare-like quality about it, or maybe it's more like a fairy tale, the kind where danger is always lurking just off the page. 

I don't know how else to describe it. It's a weird one.  

The Innocents

 The Innocents by Michael Crummey

The haunting story of a brother and sister - Everett 11, Ada 9 - left to fend for themselves after the deaths of their parents and baby sister.
 They stay in their remote and isolated cove in Newfoundland, living in the tilt that had housed their family - I had to look up "tilt" - a "temporary structure built of logs set in the ground vertically." Alone they stuggle through brutal winters and summers filled with hard physical labour, fishing and growing whatever will keep to feed them through the long frigid months. In the spring, when the ice moves out, a boat comes to take the children's catch of cod in trade for supplies, and each year the captain is surprised to find them still alive.

Through every hardship they persevere, huddling together through the freezing nights to stay warm, but then, as they get older, taking more comfort in each other than brother and sister were ever meant to. This creates a new tension between them, both drawing them closer and driving them apart. It becomes the focus of the rest of the story, affecting everything else that happens and further complicating the struggle and danger of their daily lives. Crummey's powerful descriptive abilities render it all chillingly vivid and terribly painful to read.  

I love Michael Crummey's writing; he takes me out of my life and sets me down in the middle of a story like few other writers can and his Sweetland remains one of my all time favourites. Reading this one I was again awed by his genius, but it was hard to get through. Their pain, their unnatural relationship - it was heavy stuff. I finished it because I had to know if they survived to the end, but once the story took that turn I lost my stomach for it.