Unusually for me, I did not do a single post in May for National Short Story Month, but now that my coworker, Marika McCoola, has alerted me to this month's national book affiliation, I will blog my little heart out. Like Marika, I am another Odyssey staffer who lives for audio books, and I've got some great recommendations for you.
Unlike a conventional book, with an audio book, it's the performer who makes or breaks the book. I don't care how wonderful a novel is when you curl up in bed to read it, if it has bad or even just a mediocre audio performance, it's difficult for the story to rise above the performance. Conversely, a great audio performance will enhance a poor or mediocre book, disguising its flaws and keeping you on the edge of your car seat (or wherever you happen to be listening).
Here is my first of a few solid recommendations for GREAT audio performances that you can take to the bank. Check 'em out of your local library or pop in to your nearest brick & mortar bookstore to pick 'em up.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett, read by Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, and Jenna Lemia, with one "journalistic" chapter read by Cassandra Campbell. These women represent Aibileen, Minnie, and Skeeter, respectively. Aibileen and Minnie are two black maids working in Jackson, MS, in the early 1960s and Skeeter is the young white woman who wants to tell their story. Much of the narration and dialogue is written in quasi-dialect, which might challenge some readers of the conventional book, but with these three outstanding performances, you'll soon melt into their voices and picture yourself in the Deep South. I grew up in Mississippi and spent much of my adult life living in Jackson in particular, and I have to say that these folks do an outstanding job with the Southern accent. (There are a couple of notable mispronunciations, such as the family name of Van Devender.) You'll laugh and cry along with these unforgettable women and the stories they have to tell, some shocking, some painful, and even a few that are heartwarming, but you won't easily forget them. I listened to this audio book three times over the last two years. Unabridged, this audio runs just over 18 hours. (Incidentally, I think this might be one of those instances where the audio version eclipses the written one!)