(6.5 hours), Toni Morrison's new novel, is dense and dark, luminous and lyric; not something to be listened to casually. Your attention will be held not just by the superbly drawn characters, the intense evocation of love and hate, fear and forgiveness, tolerance and intolerance, and the intricately woven threads of the narrative, but by the author's voice. Ms. Morrison's reading is sonorous, sensitive, sometimes seductive, always rhythmic, and with a poetic cadence that mesmerizes. The story is set in Ruby, Oklahoma, a tiny all-black town determined to keep the outside out, and its founding father's pride and principles in. The challenge to Ruby's self-contained certainty comes from a former convent on the edge of town that has become a refuge for a few women, odd and unwanted stragglers, from lives they had to abandon. Vivid and powerful, this is masterful Morrison.

Sukey Howard writes from

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