Everything in Everything's Eventual, Stephen King's latest collection of Dark Tales, is truly "eventual" (read "awesome" for this neologism coined by a King character) and shows off everything that makes King the king of eerie suspense and excellently crafted stories that stretch your imagination, then linger long after you've listened. There are five unabridged tales in this audio presentation, each with a very different leading character a 19-year-old, going nowhere fast, who gets an offer he can't refuse from a mysterious, perhaps devilish, stranger; a live man, locked in undiagnosed paralysis, lying on an autopsy table; Roland the Gunslinger, whom King fans have met before; a struggling single mother whose daydream of winning it big might become a weird reality; and an author of pulp horror whose creepy fiction suddenly becomes threatening fact. Each is read by a different but equally talented performer, including Boyd Gaines and Judith Ivey, two of my favorite audio actors. It adds up to entertainment fit for a king.
A novel that makes history
When Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. bought the manuscript of The Bondwoman's Narrative by Hannah Crafts, he thought he might actually have in his hands the only known novel by a female African-American slave and, perhaps, the first novel ever written by a black woman. After thorough authentication and much research, it turns out that he did. To have The Bondwoman's Narrative, a tale of adventure and escape to freedom, written in the 1850s, based on the author's own experience, is extraordinary. And to have it read here by Anna Deavere Smith, with an exclusive interview with Gates, makes for an extraordinary audio. I'd start with the interview (side B of the last tape); it gives this intimate look at what it meant to live as a slave added resonance.
Love and loyalty
Carrie had been Mike's girlfriend for as long as she could remember. They'd lived in the same town and gone to the same schools, and she was beginning to feel smothered by the predictability of it all. But the moment Mike dove into the lake on that Memorial Day, their lives changed forever. Mike would never walk or use his hands again, and Carrie, who narrates Ann Packer's novel, The Dive from Clausen's Pier, must face decisions she's loathe to make—decisions that make her question her loyalty to herself and others. Looking at her life as she has never had to, Carrie finds herself looking for love where she'd never even thought of looking. You're bound to ask yourself what you'd do in these circumstances, and the answer, if you really had to face it, might take you through the maze of emotions that Carrie navigates. A welcome debut by a promising writer, read with all the right nuances by Scarlett Johansson.
Two memoirs by young Afghan women take us into the devastated world left behind by years of corrupt Communist domination, civil war and Taliban rule. Zoya, the author of Zoya's Story: An Afghan Woman's Struggle for Freedom, written with John Follain and Rita Cristofari, works with RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, an organization that fights tirelessly for women's rights. Both her parents lost their lives opposing tyranny, and as she matured, Zoya took up their mantle. She wears it bravely, living now to help others. Latifa was only 16 when the Taliban took over Kabul. Her book, My Forbidden Face: Growing Up Under the Taliban: A Young Woman's Story, describes the soul-sapping misery that life became under the Taliban and her escape with her parents to Pakistan and then to Paris. The resilience of the human spirit, the spirit that can help rebuild Afghanistan, shines in both of these audio memoirs.
Stone Age saga sweeps on
Ayla of the Mamutoi, daughter of the Mammoth Hearth, the fair-haired heroine of Jean Auel's four previous super-selling novels about the rigors of life and the endurance of love during the Pleistocene epoch, is back after a 12-year hiatus, and her adventures with her beloved Jondalar are as intriguing as ever. In a superbly sustained 33-hour reading by Sandra Burr, The Shelters of Stone begins as Ayla and Jondalar reach the Ninth Cave of Zelandonii, his home, accompanied by their tame wolf and horses. Ayla, a Cro-Magnon, who was brought up by The Clan, a group of Neanderthals, has much to learn from Jondalar's people and much to offer them, and Jean Auel, who has steeped herself in the paleoanthropology and archaeology of the paleolithic, has much to offer her legions of fans.