“Apples Never Fall”
Like all Liane Moriarty’s novels, “Apples Never Fall” is something of a guilty pleasure. Say what you will about these “light” books, the characters in them are psychologically shrewd and very entertaining. In this case, Joy and Stan Delaney have sold their successful tennis academy, leaving them with a dissatisfying retirement. Now Joy has vanished from their Sydney home without a word to her husband or their four adult children. More troubling, she left behind her phone and the reverberations of an argument with Stan. And what of the strange girl with a bloody eye who came knocking at the Delaney’s door late at night some months ago? She stayed for weeks, cosseted by the couple — but now she too is nowhere to be found. Clues are everywhere, but it takes all 18 hours for them to snap beautifully together. Australian actor Caroline Lee, a talented narrator of many of Moriarty’s novels, delivers this one with her customary Aussie panache and pronunciation, both of which stick in your brain long after you’ve finished listening. (Macmillan, Unabridged, 18 hours)
“American Republics: A Continental History of the United States, 1783 — 1850”
Alan Taylor’s superb history shows in fascinating, disheartening detail that, before the Civil War, the United States was united in little beyond its name. The union’s preservation depended to an extent on external threats — the British, French and Spanish empires — but more crucially on expansion. More precisely, Taylor shows, it was maintained by invasions and expropriations, especially of the lands of Native peoples, but also of territory already subjugated by Europeans. Indeed, as Taylor notes, the Mexican War of 1846 — 48 prepared officers to fight the Civil War. The work makes a highly engaging if devastating audiobook. Under constant threat of secession from this or that region, the country traveled along a path of carnage, duplicitous treaties, removals and dispossessions, forging of racist laws and the relentless spread of White settlers. Narrator Graham Winton delivers the saga handsomely in a comfortably paced, sandy-textured voice. Further, he is a master of the difficult art of differentiating quoted passages from the general narrative without sounding cloggy. This is a magnificent, highly corrective history of this still splintering nation. (Recorded Books, Unabridged, 14 3/4 hours)
Katherine A. Powers reviews audiobooks every month for The Washington Post.