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Audio: Women and war
“In love we find out who we want to be. In war we find out who we are.” The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah’s latest novel and a departure from her previous bestsellers, explores that powerful statement. Set in France during WWII, it’s told as an epic flashback by an elderly woman, one of two sisters, now urged into assisted care by her son. What unfolds is the story of these sisters. Vianne is a mild, loving wife and mother living in a Loire village as her husband goes off to fight, while Isabelle, 10 years younger, is bold, impetuous, rebellious, and has just been expelled from yet another school. In their very different ways, they must confront the horrors of the Nazi occupation. Isabelle joins the resistance, becoming a famous passeur, leading downed allied airmen to freedom. Vianne quietly begins to save Jewish children in her village from deportation and death. Hannah makes the war’s degradation and deprivation palpable and the valor of the sisters vivid, as does Polly Stone’s Gallic-glazed narration.
A GIRL WITH GUMPTION
Addie Baum, the irrepressibly feisty, endearing heroine of Anita Diamant’s novel, The Boston Girl, comes to vibrant life in Linda Lavin’s reading, with her pitch-perfect Boston-Jewish accent. Addie, now 85 and a doting grandmother, is more than willing to share her story, warts and all, with her youngest granddaughter. The first U.S.-born child of East European immigrants in 1900, Addie’s life is a mirror of the transformations that made the 20th century so exciting. Her parents, a constantly carping mother and a somewhat disengaged father, held hard to their old-world values, and didn’t understand a girl who wanted to go to high school and college. But Addie persevered and, step by unsteady step, built a life with meaning, found a man with whom she could share her liberal values and had both a career and a family. Diamant offers a heartwarming, but unsentimental, serenade to the immigrant experience.
TOP PICK IN AUDIO
John Grisham’s latest, Gray Mountain isn’t a whodunit or a traditional legal thriller. You know from the get-go that Big Coal, in collusion with politicians, judges, doctors and even some federal agencies, did it, does it and is determined to keep at it. “It” is the incredible devastation of Appalachia and of the miners and their families. Grisham has wrapped his impassioned advocacy for stopping Big Coal’s rape of the land and the rampant pollution and ruined lives that come as collateral damage in a fast-paced page-turner. It stars an attractive, smart, well-educated young lawyer who was on the fast track to making partner in a prestigious New York law firm—until the 2008 crash. Suddenly, without a salary or a shiny future, Samantha Kofer finds herself at the Mountain Legal Aid Clinic in Brady, Virginia, a very small town in the heart of Appalachia. And suddenly, she’s dealing with the victims of Big Coal’s greed and the crusading local lawyers dedicated to helping them, no matter what the risk. Catherine Taber’s performance makes Samantha, the good guys and the bad real and relevant.