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.

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.

“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?” Well, the Shadow knows for sure, 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.

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