Thursday, May 13, 2010

Audio Book Thursdays

I decided I would try to commit Thursdays on the blog to everything audiobook. Audio books probably comprise almost half of my reading each year, so it seems fitting that at least one day be dedicated to reviews of audio books, possibly some interviews with narrators, audio books I'm looking forward to, audiobooks that are on my iTouch, etc. And today will be the inaugural Audio Book Thursday. I'm going to start with a review of the audio for THE COLOR OF LAW, written by Mark Gimenez, narrated by Stephen Hoye for Books on Tape.

FIRST LINE: "Clark McCall was thirty years old and the sole heir to his father's $800 million fortune."

After giving a passionate speech about the role TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD played in his childhood, a speech Scott Fenney doesn't believe in just thinks sounds good, Scott finds himself assigned to defend a black, heroin-addicted prostitute accused of murder. Scott Fenney is a successful corporate lawyer, a partner in one of the most successful law firms in Dallas. The idea of serving as a public defender in this murder trial is repulsive to him. When he attempts to pawn the case off on an old childhood friend, the judge denies his escape plan and Scott finds himself with no option but to defend Shawanda Jones.

A friend recommended this book to me because she, like many people, knows that TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is still my all-time favorite novel. So, she insisted I needed to read this book because of all the parallels to MOCKINGBIRD; she was confident I would enjoy it, and she was absolutely right. It's also quite fitting that I read THE COLOR OF LAW, first published in 2005, on the 50th anniversary of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. THE COLOR OF LAW is a modern-day MOCKINGBIRD story.

Much the way I love Scout, I also love Barbara "Boo" Fenney. Boo is Scott's nine-year-old daughter, the voice of pure and simple reason. She's a tomboy who mortifies her mother by wearing overalls instead of dresses. Many of the richest conversations that take place in this book are the ones where Boo is trying to figure out life, talking to her father:

"'Why do you represent corporations instead of people?'

'Because people can't afford me. Heck, Boo, I couldn't afford to hire myself, not at three-fifty an hour.'

Her eyes got big. 'You charge three dollars and fifty cents an hour?'

Scott chuckled. 'No. Three hundred and fifty dollars and hour.'

'For real? Is that why you work so slowly?'"

She simply states the truth in unadulterated fashion. Adults like to put a spin on their less than respectable behavior. They find excuses to justify what they do. But the children see things for what they are, and Boo is the one constantly reminding Scott. Her innocence is endearing and often very funny. But more than anything, it's pure. After her mother walks out on Scott, Boo is distraught talking to Shawanda Jones' young daughter:

"Boo was crying facedown in bed. Every girl she knew had a mother - even Pajamae! She felt Pajamae's arms around her, hugging her tightly.

'Boo, I don't have a daddy and now you don't have a mama, maybe your daddy and my mama could get married. We'd be sisters.'

'Pajamae, A. Scott can't marry your mother, she's...'

Pajamae's hug went soft. Boo felt her pull away. Boo wiped her face and sat up. Pajamae had a funny look on her face. Her fists were on her hips, like Mother when she got mad.

'She's what?'

Boo shrugged. 'She's twenty-four. That's way too young for him. He's really old.'"

The other element of this novel that I enjoyed quite a bit was the view Gimenez gives of corruption in the legal system now, as opposed to what corrupted the legal system in 1960 when Harper Lee wrote TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. THE COLOR OF LAW is a jolting reminder of just how disadvantaged a poor person can be in our justice system.

Scott Fenney is no Atticus Finch, and that may be Gimenez's message, that we have a shortage of Atticuses out there. Any way I look at THE COLOR OF LAW, it is an enjoyable plot with wonderfully colorful characters, both bad and good. The dialogue is crisp and authentic, and no where does that stand out more than in an audiobook.

I believe this is the first audio book I've listened to narrated by Stephen Hoye. He does a wonderful job with Scott's character and most of the adult males. Adult females are o.k., but the characters I feel lack the most are the young girls. And realistically, one reader isn't going to be able to span that range of characters. Hoye does a fine job for the spectrum of roles he has to narrate. What I appreciate most is his attention to the subtle nuances, the sarcasm, the disbelief or emotion, the dialect. He brings the book to life with all those minor things that can easily be overlooked, but in the end make all the difference.

This is a book I will recommend to others whether in print or this highly enjoyable audio book version. THE COLOR OF LAW was first published by Doubleday in hardcover in 2005 (ISBN: 978-0385516730), by Anchor in paperback in 2006 (ISBN: 978-0307275004)  and the audio book version I experienced was Books on Tape unabridged (ISBN: 978-1415924723).

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bermudaonion May 13, 2010 at 8:09 AM  

I love To Kill a Mockingbird too, so you've really caught my attention with this review!

Pop Culture Nerd May 13, 2010 at 3:28 PM  

Those excerpts are hilarious! Boo sounds like quite a character; it seems Gimenez really captured how kids talk. I have little nieces and nephews who talk like that. They're just calling it like they see it but they crack me up.

Thanks for bringing attention to this book, Jen.

Susan C Shea May 13, 2010 at 3:48 PM  

Jen, Boy, there's a message there if a dedicated reader like you does half her 'reading' in audio format. When I had a monster commute, I listened to books all the time. Now that I'm chained to my computer in my home office all day, that time has shrunk. Thanks for the reminder.

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