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AUDIOBOOKS: Four kinds of love

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By Sunday, Jan 20, 2019 Arts & Entertainment

Joyous, tortured, familial, and romantic love is at the heart of these four audiobooks.

The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion
Fannie Flagg; read by the author
Random House Audio; $40; nine CDs; 11 hours; www.audible.com download, $28

Two stories intertwine in Flagg’s novel set in both the present and during World War II. When Sookie Poole, an Alabama matron, discovers that almost nothing about her life is what she had believed it to be, she sets out to learn the truth behind her birth and her connection to a large Polish family from Wisconsin. There are plenty of twists and Flagg, as always, weaves humor into her story, but what captivates is her account of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) who served during the war but were given neither recognition nor military status. Not only does Flagg pull her various subplots together in the end, she also narrates with plenty of comedic verve and several regional accents that are only slightly over the top. Grade: A-minus 

The Theory of Opposites
Allison Winn Scotch; read by Christina Traister
Brilliance Audio; $14.99 on mp3 CDs, eight hours and 52 minutes; www.audible.com download, $19.99

When Willa Chandler-Golden’s husband suddenly announces that he needs “a break” and presents her with a list of rules outlining their separation, she embarks on a life-changing journey that is both painful and funny. Challenging everything she was taught by her father, a bestselling self-help author, Willa shakes up her routines and challenges herself to face her fears. The plot twists eventually run amok, but it is fun hearing Willa try to decide if her life is a result of free will or fate. Traister sounds perky and funny as needed, capturing the story’s irony and sarcastic humor. Her male voices, however, are merely acceptable and her regional accents should have been axed. Grade: B-plus

Joy School
Elizabeth Berg; read by Natalie Ross
Brilliance Audio; $9.99; five CDs, five hours and 32 minutes; www.audible.com download, $19.99

The last in a trilogy that includes “True to Form” and “Durable Goods,” this coming-of-age story centers again on Katie, an army brat with an angry, distant father and no mother. As she wanders through life, we are treated to her bittersweet realizations about growing up that are charming and wise at best and a bit like a Hallmark movie at their worst. Recently relocated from Texas to Missouri, Katie tried to make friends, some more dubious than others, and develops her first serious crush on an older man. Berg has made this accessible to both young adults and their parents, which makes for a perfect mother/daughter listen, leaving plenty of room for discussion. Ross matches the emotional fidelity of the story, and sounds appropriately young. However, her male voices are jarring because they sound so unnatural and interrupt the flow of the story. Grade: B

Dirty Love
Andre Dubus III; read by the author
Brilliance Audio; $19.99 on mp3 CDs; 11 hours; www.audible.com download, $24.95

Dubus (“The House of Sand and Fog”) is a fine writer whose cultivated characterizations bring to life people in all their wantonness and pain and desperation. In this collection of short stories, loosely connected characters play out their unhappy love lives, most being the cause and thus bearing the brunt of poor decisions or an inability to find happiness. And that is part of the problem; this is terribly hopeless and depressing. Not helping is that some of the stories seem unfinished and all are read by Dubus, who cannot match his ability to create prose with the ability to narrate it. When reading dialogue he sounds natural but, when he switches to narrative, he has a singsong delivery that is simply maddening. It is only the quality of his writing that saves this production. Grade: B-minus

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