But here’s where the list goes on:
Ann Patchett uses a blended family after a divorce and a multi-generational story filled with rich characters to examine family life and how we grow and change.
Hope Davis narrates with a deep understanding of her characters and enriches the storytelling.
Patchett begins her tale at a christening party in California for the youngest child. The story moves seamlessly from the past to the present, from California to Virginia and back again, through divorce, remarriage, trouble, tragedy and pleasure. Her interesting characters, maybe especially because of their flaws remind us of our humanity, keep you listening.
Full disclosure: We recently spent time in Siracusa on the island of Ortigia and loved it. The action takes place here and at least one character hates it. But this pleasurable and unsettling Delia Ephron romp will give you a taste of a magical place on the Ionian Sea in southern Sicily.
Talia Balsam, Katie Finneran, John Slattery and Darren Goldstein play two couples on vacation who don’t always share the same vision of fun. One couple brings their child and she turns into a monster. I won’t give the plot away, but this comes pretty close to a vacation from hell. Stuff happens and the narrators make it real.
The Vegetarian won the Man Booker Prize. Yet descriptions fail to do it justice. The experience of The Vegetarian surpasses a plot summary, which I suspect may turn you off and keep you away. But here I go anyway.
Han Kang tells the story of a troubled young woman, successful at her career but pushing against her husband and her traditional Korean family. Her husband’s insensitivity and her father’s casual brutality help pitch her into madness, which may have lurked below her surface for years. She seems to welcome insanity as an escape from the restrictions of her society. The narrative twists away from the woman and turns to her brother-in-law, sexual obsession and identity.
The beauty of the writing and the delicacy of the storytelling make the book compelling listening. Janet Song and Stephen Park turn the literature into a movie for the mind.
The Man Booker prize committee short-listed Hot Milk in 2016 and it deserved the recognition. Deborah Levy tells the story of a young woman taking care of her hypochondriacal mother, and trying to figure out her own life.
She accompanies her mom, who seeks a cure from mysterious ailments, to a clinic in Andalusia, Spain. While her mother visits the doctor, she gets involved with assorted people who encourage her to breathe life into herself.
The elegant, insightful writing makes the book a must-read.
You can count on Tana French to deliver a police procedural that feels like a psychological thriller with surprising twists and turns that make it hard to put down.
Detective Antoinette Conway, a mixed-race woman and the double outsider in the Dublin Murder Squad, is the title character of The Trespasser. She tells about her absent father, who may be an Egyptian prince, a Saudi Arabian medical student or a Brazilian guitarist, according to her mother’s whims.
Conway and her partner Stephen Moran begin to investigate the murder of a young woman, also haunted by an absent father. And it becomes a story about outsiders and a search for identity within the murder squad and the world.
Solving the murder and finding the real killer pits Conway and Moran against their own squad and while you root for them, you realize that could lose.
Carl Hiassen delights with a twisted tale of crazy people who come together with disastrous, hilarious and ultimately rewarding — for the reader and listener — results.
The Razor Girl hero, a by-the-book sheriff’s deputy busted down to a health inspector on restaurant roach patrol, just wants to do the right thing. He hopes to marry his Latina girlfriend, a coroner who gets sick of Miami violence and goes off to work in Norway.
This believable and likable guy bumps up against a cast of characters in Key West that includes a fake Cajun reality TV star, a Hollywood agent, Mafiosi, a less than savory lawyer, a conman developer and a woman who makes a living inviting car crashes while shaving her pubic area. A couple of giant rats, the four-legged kind, make an appearance too.
John Rubinstein brings it all together and makes you want to keep listening. Razor Girl stands out as the perfect book for a long car trip.
My Name is Lucy Barton was the first book I listened to in 2016 and it has stayed with me. In this elegantly written story, Lucy Barton peels back her personal layers and discovers the truth about herself. She married, moved away from the Midwest and her poverty-stricken, sometimes abusive family, had children of her own and began a successful writing career.
But when she lands in a Manhattan hospital with a mystery ailment, she has plenty of time to think. Her estranged mother comes from the Midwest to sit with her and they talk and talk.
The subtle insight and journey of self-discovery reminds us how long it can take to get comfortable in your own skin. But when it happens, oh girl, how sweet you feel.