Listening to Lawrence Luckinbill read Annie Dillard's historical novel The Living
takes a little getting used to. The very first sentence reveals a pronounced and distracting lisp, but don't let that dissuade you from continuing. Luckinbill's voice also exhibits a simple honesty, a gruffness that is perfectly suited to the steely pioneer spirit of Dillard's story. Surprisingly quickly, the vocal idiosyncrasy fades away, leaving only the emotional resonance of Luckenbill's obviously heartfelt connection to this powerful tale.
Dillard's finely crafted prose and Luckinbill's sincere voice carry you back to the early days of American expansion, into the truly Wild West and the stone-hard life these settlers would be forced to endure. "She had cried out to God all day and maybe all night, too, that he would lend her strength to bear affliction and go on. She was not aware that underneath she prayed another prayer as if to a power above God, or at least to his better nature, that he was finished with the worst of it." Of course, God isn't finished, and neither are these brave souls. Dillard opens their world slowly, stretching the horizon generation by generation, tethering the fate of one small family to that of the struggling town that they are helping to build and, ultimately, to the inexorable rise of the emerging nation. (Running time: six hours, four cassettes) --George Laney
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Pulitzer Prize-winner Dillard ( Pilgrim at Tinker Creek , HarperCollins, 1988) turns her hand to fiction with this historical novel of the American Northwest in the late 19th century. Focusing on the settlement at Whatcom on Bellingham Bay (near Puget Sound), Dillard offers a compelling portrait of frontier life. The novel has a large and richly varied cast of characters, from the engaging frontiersman Clare Fishburn and Eastern socialite-turned-pioneer Minta Honer to the disturbed and violent Beal Obenchain and kleptomaniac Pearl Sharp. The Living is unflinching in its delineations of pioneer life at its worst and best--racism and brutality on the one hand and optimism and charity in adversity on the other. Dillard's view of "the living" in its many senses is a fine novel that is an essential purchase for all fiction collections.- Dean James, Houston Acad. of Medicine/Texas Medical Ctr. Lib.
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