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AUDIOBOOKS: Novels to relieve holiday stress

By Sunday, Dec 1, 2019 Arts & Entertainment

Here are three novels to take your mind away from holiday stress.    

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Gail Honeyman; read by Cathleen McCarron
Penguin Audio, nine CDs, 11 hours, $40/www.audible.com download, $28

Eleanor is that odd duck at work who is bright, capable and completely clueless sociably. Overly literal, almost completely isolated and about to turn 29, she begins to wake up and make changes that are in turn laugh-out-loud funny and piercingly painful. Scottish actress McCarron captures Eleanor’s sweetness and sharp humor while conjuring up Scottish accents and various voices for surrounding characters. She steers us through an emotional landscape without ever wavering, keeping the often prickly humor in the forefront while allowing the bittersweet undertones to rise as needed. Honeyman, a first-time author, is well worth remembering for this endearing novel. Grade: A 

Spoonbenders
Daryl Gregory; read by Ari Fliakos
Random House Audio, 11 CDs, 14 hours, $50/www.audible.com download, $35

The Amazing Telemachus Family is mostly the real deal as psychic powers are passed down from the mother, Maureen, to her kids. Teddy, the conman patriarch, imbues his children with confidence and the gift of gab, resulting in a clan that rises to national fame and then falls hard. Jumping ahead 20 years, the family is in shambles, but their collection of intriguing superpowers allows the kids and grandkids to deal with mobsters, the CIA and modern romance. Fliakos perfectly matches various tones and timbres for the wide range of characters. He captures the novel’s whimsy without overdoing it, which is exactly what is needed for this wild but surprisingly relatable tale of a family in crisis. Grade: A-minus 

The Weight of Ink
Rachel Kadish; read by Corrie James
HighBridge Audio, 19 CDs, 23.5 hours, $49.99/www.audible.com download, $34.99

This lengthy but captivating novel veers between the London of the 1660s and the early 21st century, connected by documents hidden in a wall for over 300 years. The discovery connects two women of faith and intellect across the centuries and shakes up a grad student as he translates letters and personal notes written by a Jewish woman in a time when women were shunned for being scholarly. Though several hours could easily have been trimmed, this remains compelling listening thanks in part to narrator James. Her American accent is a bit wobbly, but she sounds patrician and formal for 17th-century voices, and more modern and clipped for contemporary characters. Grade: B-plus


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