Thursday, January 13, 2011

Audiobook Thursday - NARROWS GATE

NARROWS GATE is Jim Fusilli’s most recent work, but it wasn’t written for print. Instead this epic novel went straight to audio.

NARROWS GATE is the story of three boys growing up in the midst of the Italian mob in mid-twentieth century New Jersey. Bill Marsala craved nothing more than his mother’s approval and attention. When he couldn’t have that he weaseled his way into the entertainment business as a singer, but at a heavy cost – an obligation to the family. And when that obligation mixed with his ever-increasing ego, disaster was inevitable. Sal Benno would never be mistaken for Eistein. His aspirations were low, but he was happy in his family’s grocery business and felt on top of the world when he was entrusted with some basic errands for the family. They never come without strings, though. And Leo Bell was the brains of the group. He wanted to make his way out of Narrows Gate, see the world, and live. But he also wanted to protect his best friend Sal from the dangers that were bound to find the clueless boy.

Fusilli doesn’t bring anything new to the classic mafia epic story. Instead the novelty comes in its delivery, strictly audio.

Joe Pantoliano and Joe Barrett were hand-picked for the project with Pantoliano performing the dialogue and Barrett the narrative. Their combined efforts resulted in a fantastic audiobook narration. Pantoliano brings the Jersey mafia to life with distinct dialect; each character had a sound as unique as his/her character. Sal’s bumbling personality and tendency towards cluelessness is emphasized in Pantoliano’s chosen sound for him. He adjusts for Marsala’s bi-polar tendencies. And many of the mob heavies have grisly and intimidating sounds. Barrett’s honey voice expertly set the tone of each scene. Combined, they bring out not only the World War II time period, but the geographic element as well. This performance element is what makes NARROWS GATE so unique; an extra layer of interpretation goes into audiobooks. The audience doesn’t have an option to interpret themselves by seeing the print version first. Instead, their interpretation is now influenced by the sound these two narrators have created. I found that sound to be highly effective.

The only drawback I would mention on this audio, however, is keeping track of all the characters and names. There are many characters to begin with, but as with most mob stories, the characters have multiple names due to nicknames and such. In addition there are a few names that sound very similar. So at times it may be confusing as to who is involved in what capacity.

Fans of Puzo or The Sopranos will likely appreciate this performance. It’s a long one at just over 17 and a half hours, but following Sal, Leo and Bill through their life-long experiences is quickly addictive and 17 hours is gone before you realize it.


le0pard13 January 13, 2011 at 9:38 AM  

I've heard of this one and will be doing the audiobook sometime this year. Great to hear you found it enjoyable. Thanks, Jen.

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