Thursday, July 22, 2010

Audiobook Thursday: STARVATION LAKE

FIRST LINE: The cast-iron railing wobbled in his hand as he climbed the porch steps.

Gus Carpenter returned home to Starvation Lake when his plans for a grand career in journalism were snuffed out. Gus made some ethically questionable decisions writing an investigative story for the Detroit Times. He was writing that story about a car manufacturer with deep pockets. The car manufacturer and its lawyers are coming after Gus for the name of his source. The Detroit Times left Gus to fend for himself, so he headed home to Starvation Lake and a job with their local paper. All's quiet in Starvation until Gus receives a call one night to head out to the city's namesake. The sheriff and his deputy are pulling something from the frozen lake. It looks like maybe it's part of a snowmobile, a yellow snowmobile, just like the one Gus's hockey coach was driving when he fell into Walleye Lake and drowned ten years ago. But how could Coach Blackburn's snowmobile surface in an entirely different lake? That's where the questions start; they grow more mysterious when the snowmobile is confirmed to be Blackburn's and there's reason to believe he was murdered, not drowned.

STARVATION LAKE is Bryan Gruley's debut novel and boy did Gruley ever make a splash on the first go round. The small town of Starvation Lake is populated with a cast of characters, all sharing their small-town secrets and struggling for their identities. Gruley reminds us that small town doesn't guarantee safety, and sometimes the close knit community makes the horror that much worse.

Gruley weaves his own love and knowledge of hockey into the plot. Much the way football defines the small towns of Texas, hockey defines the small towns of Northern Michigan. That definition comes alive through Gus and his life-long friends. Gruley does such a fine job of developing the plot and characters that the reader need not have any love or knowledge of the sport to feel its effects on the people of the community, to feel its effects on the team of boys whose identities are directly linked to the game.

STARVATION LAKE is a book that slowly, silently sneaks into your brain and your soul. A book you find yourself thinking about even when you're not reading it. The characters are ones you remind yourself aren't in the directory of your cell phone. Even though I know it's fiction, I can't wait to visit Gus and Soupy and Starvation Lake again.

The audiobook of STARVATION LAKE is narrated beautifully by Rich Orlow. This is a book that full of passion and emotion but it's all very subtle. Most of what happens emotionally is internal to the characters. Orlow does an exquisite job of relating Gruley's passion without making the listener feel as though they are listening to a daytime drama. And the plot is haunting, but the haunting effect sneaks up on you. You realize its effects after you've put the book down when you can't get it out of your head. I think Orlow strengthens that effect. Definitely an outstanding audiobook.

STARVATION LAKE is available from Touchstone in trade paper (ISBN: 978-1-416-56362-4) and from Recorded Books on audio (ISBN: 978-1-4407-0340-9).

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Jenn's Bookshelves July 22, 2010 at 8:01 AM  

I'm desperately trying to get my hands on an audio of this book! My library doesn't have it, but audible does. I'll have to wait til I get next month's credit to download it though! I can't wait to listen to it, you've had nothing but excellent things to say about it!

Naomi Johnson July 22, 2010 at 10:45 AM  

I know I have this in my TBR. Thing is, I have so many "wanna read right now" books in the TBR that I'm feeling a trifle overwhelmed.

Kay July 22, 2010 at 2:11 PM  

I'm so glad that you highlighted this book, Jen. I have it here, but I've passed over it several times because of the hockey thing. Me, I don't know hockey. However, I do know small town Texas football. So, that gives me a frame of reference or a type of reference or something. Just the nudge I needed. Thanks for sharing!

Beth F July 23, 2010 at 8:00 AM  

Ooooh. I think I'm going to have to do this on audio for sure.

Jen Forbus July 25, 2010 at 5:57 PM  

I really think you all will like this one! There's just so much to appreciate in the pages. A fine, fine debut for sure. And completely worthy of the nominations and awards it's been receiving.

stacybuckeye August 7, 2010 at 9:20 PM  

I love debut novels and am always looking for a good audio book. Thanks for the recommendation :)

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