Before Nadine has fully recovered from an assault that left her hospitalized, she is already on a plane to South Africa. As luck would have it, she flies the same flight as two parents who are to appear in front of a tribunal created in the postapartheid era to reconsider the crimes of political criminals. Their testimony will decide the fate of a young woman who was involved in the murder of their son, Jason. A hard news journalist, Nadine wants the scoop, but returning to South Africa will bring up some dark memories from her past. Lee’s narration proves to be the best part of this audiobook. Her soft and smooth voice captures and improves the emotion and energy of the book. Her accents and different vocal characterizations are also impressive and consistent. While she will seduce listeners, her skill won’t necessarily improve the story, which feels hackneyed and forced. Though Ward provides an intriguing look at the issue of recovery in postapartheid South Africa, her protagonist’s personal journey proves clichÃ©d and counterintuitive to the politics of the story.
Based on her semi-autobiographical one-woman show of the same title, Larkin’s debut novel takes a comedic but heartfelt look at issues of identity, heredity and self-acceptance. Pippa Dunnâ€”British, 28 and living with her sister in West Londonâ€”loves her adoptive parents dearly, but has rarely felt at home with the primness and very British emotional restraint with which she was raised, as her funny, anxious narration demonstrates. When Pippa discovers that her birth mother, Billie, is an American (from Georgia, no less) she feels compelled to travel to the U.S. to meet the the sweet, understanding, empathetic ethereal mother she’s always imagined. Not surprisingly, both Billie and Pippa’s birth father, Walt, fail to live up to her imagined ideals. Although Larkin’s premise leads to worthy reflections in Pippa’s winning voice, awkward attempts to marry the birth-mother search to a conventional romantic comedy plot are less successful. Through a midbook e-mail exchange, we learn that Pippa met her soul mate, Nick (now a banker in Singapore), in a London park seven years before, but wasn’t ready to feel love. Nick the banker-cum-painter is far too tortured and emotive to be believable, and the ensuing romantic revelations are predictable. Pippa, however, is a complex, compelling characterâ€”truly an amalgam of her heredity and her environmentâ€”and readers will root for her as she uncovers her roots and finds herself.