Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, narrated by Laura Hamilton
Whereever you are when you start listening to this, be sure you won't mind the people around you wondering why you're snorting with laughter. Like, for instance, in the middle of the hardware store. (Those were some hi-larious toggle bolts, let me tell you what.) This is the tale of three co-workers at a newspaper. Beth and Jennifer are friends who exchange non-work-related emails throughout the day, discussing Jennifer's marriage and Beth's boyfriend and much else besides, and Lincoln is the tech guy who works nights monitoring non-work-related email for the company. His lonlieness and boredom contribute to his decision not to flag the exchanges between Beth and Jennifer, and their charm, humor, and personalities are enough to explain why he begins to care about them and look forward to seeing what they'll have to say next. Gradually Lincoln is drawn further and further into their orbit, especially Beth's, but it's awfully hard to confess to someone you've never actually seen that you've been spying on them and have fallen in love. Rowell makes vivid presences of all three, and Hamilton's narration is quick, wry, and fully engaged. It's all just so much fun.
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, narrated by Ann Marie Lee
Also featuring a journalist, but otherwise a completely different type of book, this was Flynn's debut and as much as it made my skin crawl at times, I'm so glad that there are a couple of her other books for me to look forward to now. Camille's editor sends her to her Missouri hometown to get the local angle on the case of a missing girl, despite Camille's entrenched reluctance to set foot in the family mansion ever again. Camille's sister died when they were young, but her controlling mother, withdrawn stepfather, and precocious young half-sister welcome her back with anything but open arms. As Camille investigates the deaths of her half-sister's peers, she's disturbed by the girl's casual cruelty and the ways she is manipulated by and manipulative to their mother. The deeper the investigation goes, the more Camille's own disturbing past comes to the surface, like the scars of the words she has carved all over her body in the years since her sister's death. It's all haunting and fragile and cringing to listen to, especially with Lee's narration relentlessly moving onward. I'd have covered my eyes, but the words just kept pouring into my ears. Yikes.
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, narrated by Holter GrahamI will move back into the light now. Out onto a baseball diamond, in particular to that spot between second and third where the shortstop performs his magic. That's where Henry lives, whether he's actually there, or working out at Westish College's weight room with team captain Schwartz, or in the dorm with his roommate and teammate Owen. Henry has polished his work to a fine point, devoted to the game, but until Schwartz stumbles across him, even college ball was just a dream. As he moves through the years at Westish, the team solidifies and heads towards a championship. The college president, meanwhile, is torn both by his new, impossible love, and the devastated return of his daughter to his home. This is, of course, about baseball, but it is also about Melville, and independence, and dreams. Graham has a smooth and mellow timbre, with tension creeping in along the edges as Henry strives towards his goals. I rooted for the whole team, and I don't even care that much about sports.