Courtesy of Penguin Audio, Simon & Schuster Audio, HarperAudio, and Hachette Audio
“The Vanishing Half,” “The Distance Between Us,” “The Guest List,” and “28 Summers.”

A warm goodbye to summer with four great audiobooks

Squeeze in one last beach with one of our reviewer’s recommendations for audiobooks of August 2020 and settle in for a diversion. 

In August’s audiobook roundup, catch one last beach read for the year, and then venture into autumnal territory with a touching memoir, a classic whodunit, and a thoughtful novel about race and perception. Listeners may wish to know that all titles this month have adult themes.

“The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett
Read by Shayna Small; Penguin Audio; 11 hours and 30 minutes

In 1950s America, the identical Vignes twins flee the Black township in Louisiana where their father had been lynched years earlier. They are so light-skinned they can pass as white – and one chooses to do so, marrying a white man and concealing her past, while the other marries a Black man. Each sister chases a different life, until their stories eventually circle back to Louisiana and family in this compelling and thought-provoking novel. Narrator Shayna Small is in top form, delivering believable male voices, regional accents, and  different tones for each female character, all while perfectly capturing the mood through her pacing and timbre. Grade: A  

“The Distance Between Us” by Reyna Grande
Read by Yareli Arizmendi; Simon & Schuster Audio; 11 hours and 30 minutes

This beautifully-written and gracefully voiced memoir details the difficulties of immigration from the perspective of those left behind in Mexico. Reyna Grande’s prose is not exactly lyrical, but it is evocative and emotional, and the pacing is very much like a novel. The story is narrated with much feeling by Yareli Arizmendi, whose Spanish accents are believable. The ending, however, leaves some strings untied, especially after Grande enters the United States. And it becomes increasingly difficult to suspend disbelief: One cannot help but wonder how the author can recall the vivid details she describes, since the story is set when she is a very young child. Grade: B+

“The Guest List” by Lucy Foley
Read by Jot Davies, Chloe Massey, Olivia Dowd, Aoife McMahon, Sarah Ovens, and Rich Keeble; HarperAudio; 10 hours and 20 minutes

As guests assemble on a small Irish island for a wedding feast, a storm hits and (gasp!) someone is found murdered in this whodunit with a twisty plot. A full cast of narrators brings the spooky setting to life by offering alternating views of what happened. The guests, their backgrounds, and their possible motives are fully explored. “The Guest List” is a quick-paced mystery.   Grade: B+

“28 Summers” by Elin Hilderbrand
Read by Erin Bennett; Hachette Audio; 15 hours and 20 minutes

A retelling (of sorts) of the 1978 film “Same Time, Next Year,” Elin Hilderbrand’s two main characters meet on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts every summer for an affair that brings joy and heartache in turn. The plot goes a bit off-kilter when a forced detour into politics emerges, but the story’s emotional ups and downs are expertly conveyed.  Grade: B 

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