by Sukey HowardJanuary 2011
Baby's gone again
Amanda McCready was four years old in Gone, Baby, Gone, when she was kidnapped, found by P.I. Patrick Kenzie and returned to her negligent mother. It’s 12 years later in Moonlight Mile; Amanda has vanished again, and her aunt insists that Patrick find her. Dennis Lehane, one of crime fiction’s master perpetrators, has brought back Patrick and his P.I. partner, Angie Gennaro, in a sequel equal to the original, adroitly and convincingly read by Jonathan Davis. Patrick, now married to Angie, with a four-year-old daughter of their own and still conflicted by the consequences of what he did 12 years ago, is reluctant to get involved with Amanda again. But this tough, smart guy with unyielding integrity can’t say no. I won’t even try to summarize the plot; you have to listen through it, dazzled by its twists and turns, by Lehane’s powerfully descriptive prose and by his intensely believable characters, whether it’s a Moldavian thug mangling English while he casually murders his Russian mafia boss, or Patrick considering his flaws, his future and the “burdens” he’s come to cherish.
WHAT MAKES A MAN
“To so many of us he was more than just a man. He was a symbol of the struggle for justice, equality and dignity in South Africa and around the world.” That’s how Barack Obama describes Nelson Mandela in his foreword to Conversations with Myself, a collection Mandela has made from his personal archive of letters, notes, journals, calendars, parts of an unfinished autobiography and archival interviews. What emerges from these extraordinary fragments is a sort of scrapbook that offers a rare portrait of the real man behind the legend, his evolution as a political thinker and visionary leader, with an unwavering capacity to forgive, and glimpses of him as a friend and a family man. He’s been called a saint, but his definition of a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying. He kept on trying, surviving 27 years in prison, persevering in his belief that a better future for his country was possible, and finally achieving the end of apartheid. John Kani, whose voice and delivery is uncannily close to Mandela’s own, reads, making this Mandela mosaic come alive.
AUDIO OF THE MONTH
Percy Darling, widowed long ago and recently retired, is the charming curmudgeon at the heart of The Widower’s Tale, set in a small, upscale Massachusetts town. His voice alternates with those of his beloved grandson Robert—whose best friend turns out to be a charismatic ecoterrorist—a gay kindergarten teacher named Ira and Celestino, a young Guatemalan gardener without a green card. Mark Bramhall’s exceptionally gifted narration makes each man’s voice distinct and authentic in age, accent and emotional nuance. Julia Glass, an astute, sympathetic observer of family with all its mistakes, misunderstandings, mingled joys and woes, spins out a leisurely paced, totally involving narrative with subplots and backstories galore. Provocative but never preachy, she gently nudges readers to think about such topics as environmental degradation, economic disparity and the obligations that privilege should carry. I didn’t want The Widower’s Tale to end, didn’t want to leave these wonderfully drawn characters as they moved on in their complexly intertwined lives.