Staff Pick: The Chicken Sisters by KJ Dell’Antonia

Title: The Chicken Sisters

Author: Kj Dell’antonia

Narrator: Cassandra CampbellXe Sands

As a lover of fried foods, a fan of reality TV, and a huge believer in Reese’s book club picks, I knew I had to check out KJ Dell’Antonia’s The Chicken Sisters.

Taking inspiration from the secret family recipes you’ll find in the book, I’ve broken down the recipe that made The Chicken Sisters an absolute hit. Simply combine:

• 2 parts lighthearted family feuding

• 1 sweet, slow-burning romance

• A heaping handful of secrets

• 1 meddling reality TV show host

• And a dash of classic Southern charm

Over the past century, the fictional town of Merinac, Kansas has seen two family-owned restaurants ruthlessly competing for the role of the town’s best fried chicken. But when the daughter of Chicken Mimi’s marries the son from Chicken Frannies, the rift between the families grows like never before. In an attempt to finalize the true best recipe, the families sign on for Food Wars, a well-known reality show known to showcase competing restaurants and the drama that entails.

With the incredibly talented narration duo that is Cassandra Campbell and Xe Sands, The Chicken Sisters is a story you won’t want to miss in audio. Their subtly charming voices are so well-matched with the quirky characters of small-town Merinac that they truly become as integral to the plot as the sisters themselves.

KJ Dell’Antonia has also truly impressed me with her ability to accomplish what I love about reality TV: a scripted story that still somehow feels entirely real. The characters don’t stand out in my memory because they’re perfectly kind, smart, or funny, but because they enter uncharted territory and end up making realistic mistakes. Dell’Antonia made it easy to picture myself in their shoes, building an unforgettable connection to her characters.

All in all, The Chicken Sisters reminds me of a modern day, fried chicken-fueled rendition of Romeo and Juliet, in absolutely the best way. Though there aren’t any theatrical deaths (not a spoiler, I promise), there’s no shortage of dramatic moments that will keep you coming back for more.

Publisher Summary:

In tiny Merinac, Kansas, Chicken Mimi’s and Chicken Frannie’s have spent a century vying to serve up the best fried chicken in the state–and the legendary feud between their respective owners, the Moores and the Pogociellos, has lasted just as long. No one feels the impact more than thirty-five-year-old widow Amanda Moore, who grew up working for her mom at Mimi’s before scandalously marrying Frank Pogociello and changing sides to work at Frannie’s. Tired of being caught in the middle, Amanda sends an SOS to Food Wars, the reality TV restaurant competition that promises $100,000 to the winner. But in doing so, she launches both families out of the frying pan and directly into the fire. . .

The last thing Brooklyn-based organizational guru Mae Moore, Amanda’s sister, wants is to go home to Kansas. But when her career implodes, helping the fading Mimi’s look good on Food Wars becomes Mae’s best chance to reclaim the limelight–even if doing so pits her against Amanda and Frannie’s. Yet when family secrets become public knowledge, the sisters must choose: Will they fight with each other, or for their heritage?

Read more and sample the audio →

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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!