Monday, August 24, 2009

Testimony by Anita Shreve - Guest Review by Sandy Nawrot

Testimony by Anita Shreve (audio)
Reviewed by Sandy Nawrot from You've GOTTA read this!

I have just finished the audio tape version of this book, and I am sitting here with a sick, empty and frightened feeling in the pit of my stomach. At the same time, I am also filled with a sense of awe for this author that has managed to take a fairly oft-publicized (the use of the word "common" feels wrong) tragedy and rip it wide open for all to see.

This novel documents, in a very unique way, the events that led up to, occurred during, and followed in the aftermath of a very dark Saturday evening at an exclusive private boarding school in the northeast. We have heard these types of stories on the news, so this is not new territory. Several very drunk boys (all 18 and over), a very drunk, young promiscuous girl, and someone holding a camera. Why did this happen? How could this happen? Two of the three boys are good students with promises of Ivy League colleges and scholarships, coming from good families, one with a serious girlfriend. Well, I'm not sure we get a real good answer, because in reality, they just aren't there. But we hear from everyone involved...from the parents, from the "participants", the friends, the girlfriend, the headmaster of the school, even the school cafeteria lady. It is all presented to us as a combination of diary-type musings, statements of fact, or as if these individuals are being interviewed. It is uncanny. You get raw emotions, gut-reactions, all with individual, unique voices. You slip inside the minds of different mothers that feel she has contributed somehow to the downfall of her son. You hear the thoughts of fathers that are in total denial or cannot be in the same room with his son. You hear from the "victim" who attempts to reinvent herself in a different part of the country and blithely justifies her actions on the night in question. Yet, you hear a different perspective of this girl's actions from her roommate.

The effects of the incident in question are catastrophic. Lives are blown apart, some destroyed forever. One thing that I found most interesting as I was listening...with the exception of the girl, who I found to be very self-absorbed and annoying, there are no villains or heroes. When you hear of these stories on the news, it is easy to take a side and say "the boys took advantage of a young girl", or adversely, "the girl asked for it". In this story, when you are allowed to reside in the mind of each character in the story, it just isn't that black and white. Your heart breaks for each and every one of them. Personally, being the parent of a pre-pubescent son and a pubescent daughter, I am terrified at the thought of how bad judgment can implode everything you hold dear.

I'd also like to make a special note about experiencing this novel on audio tape. I've listened to many audio tapes. Up to this point, all of them but one have been a single reader that assumes different accents and tones to portray different characters. In "Testimony" there are a cast of readers, each with their own character. The effect is amazing. If you enjoy a book in this medium now and again, or have never tried it but think you might, this would be the one to pick up.


Sandy from You've GOTTA read this! kindly volunteered to loan me this review, which was originally posted on her blog in December of last year. I couldn't be more grateful to you, Sandy, for filling in for me like this!

13 comments:

  1. Great review, Sandy! I don't think I've read anything by this author so I'll have to check out her books! This sounds like a great read!

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  2. I was underwhelmed by this book. Maybe listening to the audiobook made it better...

    http://lauragerold.blogspot.com/2008/11/testimony-by-anita-shreve.html

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  3. Fantastic review Sandy! Thank you for posting it, Wendy. I really like Anita Shreve's books. I enjoy the way she writes. This sounds like a very emotionally-wrought story, I'm used to her writing more subtly than this sounds so I'm really looking forward to reading this book!

    Amy

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  4. Laura, I'd say the audio made all the difference in the world. I love most audios that have the cast of narrators, and in this case, it made the personalities pop. It felt like you were watching a movie.

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  5. Wonderful review, Sandy! I've not read any Anita Shreve, but I like the way you cut to the heart of this one "how bad judgment can implode everything you hold dear." Every parent's worst nightmare. Thank you for this!

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  6. I was impressed by the various narration styles in the book; I can imagine that having a cast of narrators in the audio must have been very effective.

    My one gripe with Shreve's books is that she seems to always wrap a love story of some sort in them ... sometimes it feels forced and not needed.

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  7. Thanks for a great review. I look forward to reading this one.

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  8. Great review Sandy. I have the book just haven't read it yet. I like Shreve and the idea that a cast of characters is on the audio sounds great.

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  9. I've got this book waiting for me on the shelves and I'm really intrigued by it. I enjoyed your review Sandy!

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  10. I liked The Pilot's Wife by Shreve. However All That He Ever Wanted took a long time finish.

    This sounds good, will check it out.

    Thanks Sandy!

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  11. Thank you all for your comments! And thank you, Sandy, for being so gracious in sharing your reviews with me. You are a life saver!

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  12. I really enjoyed this book as well. Nice review Sandy!

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  13. Wow - what a powerful review. This sounds like an incredible read.

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