Three Audiobooks: Brief Thoughts

I listened to all these books! I’m getting to be a regular audiobookphile. Or something. Maybe that’s more appropriate for people who actually, you know, love audiobooks. I’m more at the casual dating, let’s keep it fun stage. But if you want to introduce me to a lifelong love, I’m open to the possibility.
Book cover of Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

Caleb’s Crossing
Geraldine Brooks
Narrated by Jennifer Ehle

It’s 1660 on Martha’s Vineyard. The native Wampanoags are in an uneasy coexistence with a small, breakaway Puritan community.  One of the young Wampanoag, Cheeshahteaumauck, son of the local tribal leader and nephew of the most powerful healer in the area,  meets Bethia, the daughter of the town preacher, granddaughter of the town leader.

A friendship ensues, they teach each other their languages, Bethia teaches  Cheeshahteaumauck, now called Caleb, to read and write, they part when Caleb has to go on a ritual quest to learn more about becoming a healer.

I really liked a lot about this book. I liked Bethia. She illustrated so well that women in her time could wonder about their existence as fully capable humans, and how that fit into a worldview that kept them from so many opportunities.

I also really didn’t like a lot about this book. First, the title. Caleb’s Crossing. But this seems so much to be Bethia’s story. Caleb is the one who is the first Native American graduate from Harvard. He’s the historical scrap that Brooks weaves her story around. This just made me uncomfortable. He’s not a book, like the Sarajevo Haggadah. He’s a person. From a group of people that we all but wiped out. (Side note: it took 346 years for another Wampanoag to graduate from Harvard.)

Also, on Bethia: omg I found the scenes with one of her suitors SO INFURIATING. After I found them sickening. She is with her suitor discussing the miscarriage of a young woman, where the pregnancy was very likely the product of a rape. Moments later they are arguing, and he viciously grabs her and forcibly kisses her. And she finds this very sexy.  Look, I am not going to audit people’s sexual preferences. But again, telling me that a sexual act done to someone without their is something that they will enjoy and will get you a lasting relationship with them is something I’m just not cool with. (See Damned, below.)

Book cover of Trapeze by Simon Mawer.

Trapeze
Simon Mawer
Narrated by Kate Reading

A twentysomething English-Swiss girl is recruited to be a spy during World War II. Along the way, she creates alternate identities that allow her to act in ways that Marian Sutro, Geneva schoolgirl, would never have been able to.

She excels at her training, learning her way around simple explosives, a variety of firearms, stealth skydiving, and more. During “piano lessons” aka learning coded radio transmission, her personal key is a love poem she wrote about family friend and nuclear physicist Clement Pelltier.

She wonders about Clement, who she learns is still working in Paris. When she’s sent to France, will she see him? (Well, it’s a book, so, yeah.) Her interactions with him show her struggle to break free of the giggly teen she was the last time she saw him, and the confident, courageous woman she is today.

Overall, I liked the book, though the extended allusion to Alice in Wonderland got a bit old. Marian/Alice/whatevershe’sgoingby is falling down the rabbit hole, learning how to survive in an environment teeming with danger around every corner. We get it.

I did like how Marian fumbled around with taking ownership of her sexuality. It felt very real in the context of her situation.

Book cover of Damned by Chuck Palahniuk

Damned
Chuck Palahniuck

Thirteen year old Madison Spenser dies and goes to hell where she works a a telemarketer convincing dying mortals that they should make hell their afterlife choice. It’ really not bad! Come see!

Sounds like a fun concept, but unfortunately it went downhill from there.

I mentioned in a Sunday Salon post that I was not in love with this book when I first started listening to it. It didn’t get any better for me. There was that sexual assault scene that still pisses me off. I don’t need to read this shit that tells me that women like getting raped, without even recognizing that it is, in fact, rape.

Beyond that, there were some logical inconsistencies that just did not make sense. One involves using a string of condoms as a rope. Any strip of condoms I’ve ever seen has perforations between the individual condoms, so if you pulled on the strip with any amount of force it is going to rip the strip apart. This may seem really random but it’s key to a major plot point.

And if Madison likes Rebecca so much, she would know that Rebecca was the FIRST WIFE WHO IS DEAD. Fin.

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