Friday, December 30, 2011

Triangles - Geometry off the Page

This is another audiobook review for Audiobook Jukebox - the publisher sent me the discs.

Ellen Hopkins's Triangles (AUDIOWORKS, 2011, 8 hours) would be an excellent book to read in print, I suspect. I certainly have heard / read raves about it from trustworthy sources. I'm not familiar with her YA writing, but Hopkins brings a deft touch with poetic language to her comfortably paced adult novel about three women doing some mid-life soul-searching. Unfortunately, the narrators and the characters just didn't gel for me. The three women are Holly, her best friend Andrea, and Andrea's sister Marissa. All three are caught up in - and in need of escape from - lives that too often revolve around home and children. As my friends and I say, they need a little "me time." They don't always go about it in the psychologically healthiest ways, however.

Holly (voiced by January LaVoy) has it all, from an outside perspective. Staying at home with their three teens while her husband makes a success of his career, she finds herself unfulfilled, longing for the opportunities that might have been - if she'd finished college, if she's stuck with one or another of her hobbies, if, if, if. When she finally takes action, she takes extreme action - extramarital sex, and lots of it, so that the erotica she then writes doesn't have to rely much on her imagination. Although I generally liked LaVoy's voice talents, I felt she wasn't entirely connected with the non-raunchy sides of Holly's character, and because Holly was the least engaging of the three, this whole storyline was the weakest for me.

Andrea (voiced by Janel Moloney) is a single mom with an unfulfilling job at the DMV, who has been disappointed by her ex and past boyfriends and has chosen to stay celibate for a time. She's wary, watching Holly's implosion, but tries to stay connected to her friend while being dragged along to clubs and venues that aren't really to her taste. Despite that reserved side of her, which Moloney seemed to have grabbed as the only useful trait when voicing her, Andrea is smart, witty, attractive, and by far the most compelling character. It's primarily the disconnect between Andrea and Moloney that disappointed me and cast a pall over this entire production. It's both difficult and annoying to have to disregard the manner in which a story is badly narrated to get the full impact of the narrative.

Marissa (voiced by Jan Maxwell) is, like Holly, a SAHM with a successful husband. Her story is vastly different, though - raising a gay teen son and a terminally ill little girl leaves her without a second for anything approaching narcissism or hedonism. Not helping matters are her husband's frequent business trips and frequent drinks when he is home, much less his disapproval of his son. Marissa's was a painful story, and Maxwell was the only narrator who really touched me and made me cry - or let Hopkins's text make me cry - though the unrelenting bleak horizon she faced for so much of the novel made this part hard to always connect with. Much more than the other two, Marissa's story was easy to map out from her introduction, but Maxwell's talents kept me listening.

Interspersed with the three womens' stories were narrative poetry (voiced by Michele Pawk, who I could listen to read poetry for a good long while, I think.) These sections reflected on the geometry and the universality of the journeys the women took, and Hopkins cleverly and carefully uses them to elevate her novel from one with a lot of sex and fighting to one that asks probing questions and refuses to give you stock answers.

1 comment:

  1. I saw this one in the bookstore and must have opened it to a page of poetry, so I thought the whole book was in poem form. I guess it would have been better if it was.