Many have asked what our family listened to on vacation this year. We have recently returned and I can now report back. We had a lot of hours in the car—Minnesota through the Black Hills and into the Tetons and up through Montana etc. And back, of course. Good to have three drivers. Good to have three stellar audio books.
The first half of the trip we were lost in the world of To Kill a Mockingbird. Sissy Spacek was the narrator. The story is tremendous, of course, but I very much appreciated Spacek’s reading, as well. Her gentle southern drawl sucked each of us right in. She’s not a dramatic voices kind of narrator—she reads to you as if you were sitting with her on Jem and Scout’s porch, fanning yourself and partaking of some lemonade while a story that just can’t be beat is read aloud. It was heaven.
To be honest, I didn’t know if this book would work for us. I was even a little nervous to try. One of us is a little young—almost twelve—and one had started reading it but never finished, though he very much enjoyed a local theater production of it. And Dad was pretty sure he’d read it at some point…but he couldn’t remember much about it. It goes without saying that it is one of my favorite books of all time, so stakes were high…. I’m pleased to say it was a tremendous hit. We finished it sitting in road construction in Wyoming (in which you turn off your car and just sit there for a half hour). Absolutely spectacular. Important. I was really rather verklempt the entire time we listened. I had that parental feeling of “I think my work here is just about done….” as it finished up and there was a collective sigh in the car. Enormously satisfying.
We also listened to the second Sally Lockhart mystery by Philip Pullman. (I wrote about the first here.) The Shadow in the North picks up six years down the road from the first novel, The Ruby in the Smoke. Like its predecessor, this was an edge-of-your-seat mystery complete with séances, a disappearing magician, an incredibly dangerous and morally suspect invention, love and romance, the beginnings of women’s rights, and terrible, terrible tragedy. We literally took turns gasping and exhorting “No!” and “YES! Sally does it again!” (Oops—guess that was a spoiler. But, as my daughter would point out, you knew Sally would make it because book #3 and #4 await us for another vacation.) As mentioned in my recommendation of The Ruby in the Smoke, Anton Lesser, the narrator, is fantastic—this is a book that needs accents and voices and he’s got ‘em!
The last book we listened to was Holes by Louis Sachar. We picked this up mid-trip at my college roommate’s house—her family had just listened to it. Two in our party have read this book a couple of times, one of us trying (and not really succeeding) to figure out its complexities. One started it years ago, but had not liked it. One had never heard of it. We all loved it. I was surprised at how well the two intertwining storylines came off in a reading. The narrator was simply okay, but the story is amazing. Listening (through the entire state of North Dakota) I figured out some of the complexities that had previously kept me intrigued, but confused.
It was a great vacation! Wonderful places to visit, good peeps along the way, and books in the car to make the miles fly by!