When the opportunity arises for Paula to take on a Veterinarian practice in the small California town of Easley, she and her wife Paula round up their menagerie of animals, along with their adopted son, Quinn and two teenage foster children, Mando and Star. Before the movers have a chance to unload the first box from the truck, taciturn Star angers their neighbor, Clementine (though Vern, her husband, weary of his wife’s unrelenting unhappiness, has other concerns on his mind), when she trespasses to visit the horse, Comet. Jackie and her family struggle with Clementine’s behavior. A tragic past event plunged Clementine into a dark, bitter place and she seems determined to stay that way. It takes another jarring event to allow the wounds of these families to begin to heal. The novel explores family relationships, humanity’s connection with animals, and dealing with intense grief and disappointment.
Catherine Ryan Hyde’s writing paints a range of emotions and promotes a deeper understanding of human behavior. The Language of Horses (LoH) is complex, yet accessible. Seasoned narrators Kate Rudd and Laural Merlington are a perfect fit for this story. LoH alternates between Jackie’s and Clementine’s points of view. Rudd narrates the “Jackie” chapters. Merlington narrates the “Clementine” chapters. They craft distinct primary and supporting characters. The pacing of the dialogue appropriately reflects the differences between the characters and where they are on their personal journeys. It is quick or slow, high or low, varying as needed, to bring the world into focus. Listeners will look forward to this wonderfully engaging production.
Narrator Kate provides youthful buoyancy and intensity to the children’s voices, as well as a mixture of levity, uncertainty, and strength for Jackie and Paula. We hear the emotional journey the characters take and how they evolve as the events unfold. Kate’s voice hitches when eight year old Quinn is seized by the fear that he will lose his family, again, if they ride together in one vehicle; rises when tempestuous Star talks about Comet, the neighbor’s horse; and descends into a deeper, hesitant register as Clementine flounders with her anger. Kate masterfully lifts the characters off the page and infuses them with life.
Narrator Laural gives additional weight to the complicated emotions swirling through Clementine’s heart and mind. The older woman has an insistent need-to-know everything-about-everything (and hate it)-right-now personality that has her voice rising, with quick repetition of her words when she wants to make sure she’s heard. Vernon, her husband, speaks with a more measured cadence and has a thoughtful tone to his voice. Although Vernon is a man of few words, Laural’s skillful narration amplifies his every word. It is because of Laural’s nuanced narration, that I found myself empathizing with the almost impossible to like Clementine. No small feat!
There is a slim selection of audiobooks featuring lesbian protagonists in the three public library systems of which I am a member. Perhaps I just need to fine-tune my search strategy. Aside from Sarah Waters complete catalogue, I find titles if they have record tags for “lesbian” or if I know a specific title, author, or publisher. I purchased The Language of Hoofbeats from Audible.com.
My goal this year is to locate as many sources for lesbian audiobooks as possible, without breaking the bank. If you have a favorite narrator, story, or audiobook production company, drop me a line in the comment box below.
Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde
Narrators: Kate Rudd, Laural Merlington
Produced by Brilliance Audio
Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Audible, iTunes, and your local bookseller.
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