ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell

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Narrated by Rebecca Lowman & Sunil Malhotra

This was the first audiobook I’ve listened to in a while that completely captured my attention to the point where I kept the car idling so I could keep listening (on more than one occasion.)

I met Rainbow Rowell of the fabulous alliterative name at the audiobook dinner at the Public Library Association meeting in Indianapolis this past March. She claimed nervousness, yet was gregarious and charming. I just adored her.

After hearing her speak (she was a last minute replacement for an ailing Walter Mosely) I was completely entranced. She talked about how she never wanted to listen to her books on audio because she already had the voices in her head. But she was asked for input on the readers for this book, so she succumbed and listened. She said these readers brought another dimension to the book that she wasn’t expecting. I was intrigued and decided to give it a listen. I’m very glad I did.

Set in 1986, Eleanor (read by Lowman) is poor, so poor she doesn’t even own a toothbrush. Her mother is married to an abusive second husband who had thrown Eleanor out of the house for over a year. She lived with friends of her mother’s, and her father was just out of the picture. She has returned to live with her mother and younger siblings when the book opens. She meets Park (read by Malhotra) on the bus when he is the only one to let her sit down. Eventually they form an uneasy alliance, which turns to friendship, and eventually to love.

Eleanor’s family life is difficult at best, and Park’s more normal family seems almost like a fairy tale to Eleanor. Her troubles grow as she is picked on in school, and on the bus, and eventually all her troubles come to a head with her stepfather. Some of this was pretty disturbing, and it is a credit to the author and the readers that I felt so drawn to these characters and their story.

Although classified as Young Adult, the themes of love, dysfunctional families and more are universal and I never found myself thinking that this book was not written for adults. The story is completely engrossing, the characters full developed, and the setting and time period were interesting and believable. I loved it.

6/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell. Listening Library (Audio); Unabridged edition (February 26, 2013). ISBN 978-0385368261. Listening Length: 8 hours and 56 minutes.

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