STAFF PICK: Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala

Title: Speak No Evil
Author: Uzodinma Iweala
Narrators: 
 Prentice Onayemi and Julia Whelan 

Speak No Evil is a new release from the author of the critically acclaimed Beasts of No Nation. Protagonist Niru is a successful student. He received early acceptance to Harvard, is a star track athlete, and is gay. The last bit was a secret, but when it’s accidentally revealed to his conservative Nigerian father, Niru’s life turns upside down.

As this plays out, there is friction with his best friend. Niru tries to cope with the World’s expectations and his conflicting desires without the support of the one person he’s always had by his side. The book brims with confusion and pain. He juggles his father’s shame, his pastor’s preaching, and his personal desires. When he begins to find happiness, his family’s words resonate in his head and he distances himself. His torment piles onto the pressure of high school, and despite Niru’s conscientious attitude, it gets to be too much.

The narrators are excellent. I’ve listened to and enjoyed Prentice Onayemi‘s narration before, and his performance here does not disappoint. The transition between American and Nigerian accents is smooth and clear, and he amplifies the story’s emotion. When the perspective changes and Julia Whelan takes over, the emotion is not lost. 

Uzodinma Iweala brings hard topics front of mind, and left me feeling somber but thoughtful. The writing is elegant and despite the difficult subject matter, I rushed through it. Have you read it? Share your thoughts!

Speak No Evil

 

 

Read more and sample the audio here!

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STAFF PICK: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Title: The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett
Narrators: Jenna Lamia, Cassandra Campbell, Bahni Turpin, and Octavia Spencer

Hey audiobook lovers! I must share my latest listen with you all. I just finished The Help, which I finally downloaded thanks to my sister’s recommendation. It had been idling on my wishlist before that nudge I needed to start. The novel follows three ladies in Mississippi during the 1960’s as they embark on a risky plan to have the voices of colored maids heard. The book is set during the time of segregation in the US, and we are reminded of how much progress has been made, as well as how much has stayed stagnant. Secrets and motivations of the characters are revealed as the book unravels and it truly was hard to stop listening. I loved the three main characters; they were well developed and layered with wit, sass and smarts. 

I loved it even more as an audiobook. The narrators portray each character’s accent, background and personality to a tee. Minny, my favorite character is bold and hot-headed, and her volatile, no-nonsense attitude spills through your ears. This contrasts Aibileen, the other maid in the tale who makes decisions with level-headed calculation. The third main character, Skeeter, is a white lady from the town who uses what advantages and smarts she has to give a voice to the other ladies. Whether you’re determined with Aibileen or tense and worked-up with Minny, the narrators keep you submerged in the story. By the end of the book I was sad to see them go, but very satisfied by a good listen.

The Help is similarly adored by our listeners, with 4.5 stars for the story and a 5-star narration. If you’ve been looking for a new story to dive into, please give this one a listen and let me know what you think!

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STAFF PICK: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Title: Homegoing
Author: Yaa Gyasi
Narrator: Dominic Hoffman

My listening choices tend to be quite random, but for this title I made the decision after it won the Audie Award for Literary Fiction. I haven’t previously chosen a book based on an award, but after this I’ll do it more often! Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is a novel that takes you through seven generations of a family that’s separated in eighteenth-century Ghana. After the separation, one branch of the family continues living in war-torn Ghana, while the second branch endures slavery in America. I fully enjoyed the story told generation by generation, each touching on the impact of slavery and colonialism from a different perspective. Fourteen individual lives along the lineage casts light on 14 ways that the effects trickled down the family tree.

The narration is done by Dominic Hoffman, who beautifully performs different accents as the story switches from Ghana to America, and the voice changes from African tribe leaders to American slavers to British soldiers. When the accent transitions, I did not feel taken out of the story as is sometimes the case in other books – a talent I really value in a narrator.

I found the book touching and thought-provoking and it introduced me to a side of the story I’d never learned about. If you like fiction inspired by real history, this is a tale for you.

Listen to a sample of the audio here.

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