Kent Haruf is a master of understatement, of spare, hauntingly simple prose that becomes even more powerful and affecting when read aloud. And that subdued strength is underscored by Mark Bramhall’s performance of Haruf’s latest novel, Benediction. Set, as are his previous novels, in Holt, a small town on the High Plains of eastern Colorado, it follows the declining days of Dad Lewis’ life. In those last hot summer days, Dad—a good man with understandable flaws—remembers and regrets with unflinching honesty. As we meet his loving, patient wife of 55 years, his daughter, his estranged son, a few family friends and the newly arrived, troubled preacher, we also come to know their stories, their disappointments and missed opportunities—lives lived with quiet yearning and quiet acceptance, brushed by the big questions that don’t get answered. The mood is elegiac, and Haruf’s no-frills dialogue and descriptions mirror the flat, open plains and become a hushed celebration of ordinary people in ordinary circumstances, life-affirming even in the face of death.
THE FALLOUT OF WAR
Dale Maharidge’s father, Steve, carried a deep rage within him—a rage he brought back from World War II and the Battle of Okinawa, along with undiagnosed and untreated PTSD and blast concussion. He talked little about the war but always kept a photo of himself and a fellow marine with him. When Steve died in 2000, Maharidge, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, felt impelled to find out about his father’s war. Over the next 12 years, Maharidge sought out and got to know many of the men who had served with his father. Now octogenarians, these members of the “Silent Generation” finally talked, finally described the carnage they and his father had been part of. Bringing Mulligan Home: The Other Side of the Good War, excellently performed by Pete Larkin, is memoir and history, a son’s need to know his father, to understand why his father said, “There are no heroes. You just survive.” Furthermore, Maharidge wants to “put the past in touch with the future”—to help the kids of this generation’s soldiers understand that when the bullets stop, the war goes on for those who fought and for their families.
TOP PICK IN AUDIO
“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?” Well, the Shadow knows for s[Tue Mar 11 20:15:22 2014] enhancedContent.pl: Wide character in print at E:\websites\aquabrowser\IMCPL\app\site\enhancedContent.pl line 249. ure, and so does Brigid Quinn. White-haired, 59, tough, fit and prone to cracking wise, Brigid is a retired FBI agent, a legendary hunter of sexual predators and the unusual and unusually appealing star of Becky Masterman’s debut thriller, Rage Against the Dying, narrated by the always-superb Judy Kaye. Though haunted by an unsolved case involving a diabolically crafty serial killer who murdered her protégé seven years ago, Brigid has moved on from crime and punishment—and from the horrors she dealt with daily—and has found never-expected happiness married to a former priest and philosophy professor. But her new life starts unraveling when a man confesses to the unsolved murders and Brigid, not buying this confession, begins a desperate, dangerous hunt of her own. OK, I don’t want to spoil this ingeniously plotted story, so I’m not going to give you any more details; you’re just going to have to listen. I got so hooked that I didn’t want to take the earphones off until the very end.
June is Audio Month, and author Becky Masterman joins the celebration with her thoughts on why listening to a story can be even better than reading one.
Everyone knows that the earliest form of storytelling took place around the fire at night—what is called the “oral tradition.” People recounted the legends of their culture so often they would remember every word, and sometimes add things that became part of the legend for later generations.
Despite the coming of writing, I think we’re still story listeners at heart. I have three older sisters, and on each of our birthdays our mother would tell the legend of our births. For me, my mother would always tell how she cried with unhappiness when she found out she was pregnant with me at age 40, but then my sisters went shopping for baby clothes and came back with everything pink. And how when I was born my 8-year-old sister said, “Now I have a baby of my very own.” I would laugh because I knew the story always ended with my being loved by my whole family.
“Despite the coming of writing, I think we’re still story listeners at heart.”
My husband and I, older and married only eight years ago, don’t have a lot of shared legends, and that makes me a little sad. Yet we do have stories we tell to each other. They are the novels we read. Fred may prefer Preston and Child and I may prefer Lisa Gardner, and that’s a good thing. By recounting the plots to each other while we’re getting ready to eat dinner, we can get twice the stories.
Fred follows two books at once, one a hardcover that he reads in the late afternoon, and the other an audio version that he listens to when he takes his 3.5-mile walk every morning in the high desert north of Tucson, Arizona, where we live. As a longtime fan of audiobooks, he was impressed to hear that Judy Kaye, a Tony Award winner and the narrator of the Sue Grafton alphabet mysteries, would be narrating my first novel, Rage Against the Dying.
When I had the incredible experience of attending one of the taping sessions for Rage Against the Dying, I heard for the first time my heroine’s voice, which had lived for years only in my head. Besides evoking the particular passion of Brigid Quinn, a retired FBI agent both toughened and traumatized by what she had witnessed during her career, Ms. Kaye had the ability to subtly change her accent so there were distinctions between Brigid, her husband Carlo DiForenza, an Italian philosophy professor who had lived much of his life in the U.S., and Max Coyote, a Native American. When I asked Ms. Kaye how she got Max’s voice so right, she said she had lived for a while in Phoenix, not far from me in Tucson.
What fortunate coincidences come together to create our legends.
But my favorite comment about the audio version of Rage Against the Dying came from Fred. He was there during all seven drafts of Rage, suffering through and often helping me with plot problems. Then he finally listened to the audio version, one disk a day, on his one-hour walk. He didn’t say anything while he was listening, but after nine days, when he had finished, he said, “It listens even better than it reads.”Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.