December 2020/January 2021

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December 2020/ January 2021 n 33 LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND Rumaan Alam Read by Marin Ireland Marin Ireland narrates a stunning audio- book that explores race, class, family, and global catastrophe. A married couple and their teenage children are on summer vacation at a rented secluded home in the Hamptons. However, the house's owners arrive unexpectedly after fleeing New York City during a mysterious blackout. While the situation is uncomfortable, the two families—one white and middle class, the other Black and wealthy—cohabitate and try to figure out what's hap- pened. Ireland portrays all the characters with pitch-perfect nuances. The tensions that arise feel organic and very much of our time. Whether Ireland is focused on the character dynamics or omnisciently describing the terrifying events of the world at large, she delivers an unforgettable powerhouse of a performance. A.T.N. 2020 Best Audiobook Harper Audio 7.5 hrs. Unabridged Trade Ed.: DD ISBN 9780063033504 $20.99 MAGIC LESSONS Alice Hoffman Read by Sutton Foster Tony Award winner Sutton Foster nar- rates the prequel to Practical Magic. In 1664, Hannah Owens takes in baby Maria and teaches her the craft. Maria grows up and falls in love but is aban- doned. She follows the object of her affection to Salem, Massachusetts, where she invokes the curse that will affect generations, and, in the process, she learns the real rules of magic. Foster sings beautifully and keeps to a steady pace for the descrip- tive story. Her emphasis on the word "blood" as a spell ingredient highlights its importance as compared to common items, which are read softly. Whispered pleas drive home the characters' desper- ation. The sweetly confident voice of a young witch contrasts with the dry, sar- donic tone of the embittered but fair man assisting her in her journey. A.L.C. Simon & Schuster Audio 13.5 hrs. Unabridged Trade Ed.: CD ISBN 9781797111247 $39.99 (also DD) ANXIOUS PEOPLE Fredrik Backman Read by Marin Ireland Marin Ireland uses her many theatrical gifts in her fine narration of this bitter- sweet novel. The listener is treated to an exceptional audio experience in which the narrator plays all the parts with nuance and wit. She modulates her pace and tone as she brings this human com- edy to life. At once a send-up of Swedish mores and a deeply humane story of contemporary struggles, this novel has characters galore—a banker with a guilty conscience, a father-and-son police team, an inept bank robber who just wants to make rent, and an endearing 87-year-old woman who loves books, among others. Often laugh-out-loud funny, the set piece revolves around the taking of "the worst group of hostages ever." This is an audio- book to savor. A.D.M. Simon & Schuster Audio 10 hrs. Unabridged Trade Ed.: CD ISBN 9781797105826 $29.99 (also DD) HOMELAND ELEGIES Ayad Akhtar Read by Ayad Akhtar Pulitzer-winning playwright Ayad Akhtar narrates his somewhat autobiographical novel, an outstanding chronicle of an upper-middle- class immigrant Pakistani family's experience in America and an indictment of contemporary American politics and economics. Akhtar narrates from the point of view of the protagonist, the eponymously named Ayad Akhtar, who describes his family's rise to the embodiment of the American dream and subsequent disillusionment with the U.S. in the wake of 9/11 and the elec- tion of Donald Trump to the presidency. Akhtar's pacing is comfortable, and his tone confident; he is a natural reader, par- ticularly for his own work. The Pakistani accent he employs for the protagonist's family members adds a realistic and endearing touch that helps to distinguish and personalize the characters. S.E.G. Hachette Audio 10.25 hrs. Unabridged Trade Ed.: DD ISBN 9781549102615 $25.98 RED PILL Hari Kunzru Read by Hari Kunzru Hari Kunzru narrates his disturbing novel at a deliberate pace in an eerily calm tone that mimics his protagonist's diminishing mental state. Kunzru's softly intoned English accent gives this audiobook a sense of otherness. He reads flatly, and that fits the dystopian world his socially conscious antihero envisions. Set in Berlin, rural England, and Brooklyn, the plot unfolds as the protago- nist's mind descends into paranoia. He becomes fixated on an alt-right filmmaker who unnerves him. The tim- ing of the novel reveals the political heart of this dark story—it ends on election night 2016. Events of that night lead the, by then heavily medicated, narrator to say, "My madness is about to become everyone's madness." A.D.M. Random House Audio 8.75 hrs. Unabridged Trade Ed.: DD ISBN 9780593291870 $20.00 Books on Tape Library Ed.: DD ISBN 9780593291887 $76.00 Fiction An unforgettable powerhouse of a performance CD (Compact Disc) MP3 (MP3-CD) DD (Digital Download) PRE (Preloaded Media) (Exceptional Audio) (Videos @ Blog)

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