Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Listen Up

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Listen Up

Article excerpt

At Home in Mitford, by Jan Karon

Read by John McDonough

Recorded Books, (Rental) $19.50 Fourteen cassettes, 19.25 hrs., Unabridged Out to Canaan, by Jan Karon Read by the author Penguin AudioBooks, $16.95 Two cassettes, 3 hrs., abridged Mitford, a sleepy town in North Carolina, is already familiar to many readers of Jan Karon's novels. Father Tim and his varied flock - townspeople, neighbors, Barnabus, his dog, who settles down on hearing the recitation of Scripture, Dooley, his ward, and an endearing succession of characters - populate the four sequential stories. Two narrators offer a contrast in vocal style and expression of the stories. In her introduction to the recordings, Karon invites listeners, in a light Southern voice "to let Mitford unfold in your imagination in a memorable way." She easily captures the dialogue and gives each character's voice an appealing cadence and rhythm. While the abridgments necessitate extensive cuts and result in unresolved incidents and relationships, Karon gives listeners a companionable introduction to Mitford folk. From John McDonough, listeners receive a slow, methodical, almost somnolent unfolding of life in Mitford. The stories are indeed long, but they can be savored for all their quirky characters, strong humanism, and Father Tim's humanity. In the unabridged form, McDonough offers few accents and mellow charm, while Karon can capture a Southern phrase, and entices listeners to get to know the town. Dangerous Skies By Suzanne Fischer Staples Read by Peter MacNicol Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio, $19.99 Four cassettes, 5.5 hrs., abridged Peter MacNicol brings a warm and youthful energy to the story of two young people of different races. Buck Smith and Tunes Smith were raised together as their families worked a Virginia shore farm for generations. Their youthful companionship changes, however, when Buck, the son of the white farm owner, and Tunes, African-American daughter of Kneebone Smith, find the body of one of the farm's managers. Their days of crabbing and lazy drifting through the marshes come to an abrupt end as the children and their families look at the conflicts of racism and hypocrisy. The strong, evocative writing appeals, and MacNicol shines with Buck's narrative, helping listeners to further identify with the young people. He's good with their dialogue and couples this with dramatic tension as Buck and Tunes push and pull their allegiances. MacNicol draws out Conroy-esque imagery in the loving descriptions of the land and shore. (MacNicol also narrated Pat Conroy's "Beach Music.") The narration plays up a Huck Finn independence and lawlessness in the story and this will surely draw teens' attention. "Dangerous Skies" examines powerful issues - loyalty to family, truth, prejudice - and offers two enticing, independent spirits. …

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