Leah Rollins rolls (yeah, I went there ^^) into town with the vague idea that she wants to start a business.What kind of business? Well, she hasn’t gotten that far, but at least she’s shed a tech career that no longer fits. Casting off from California, a small town in the Ozarks gives her a fresh start far from her known universe. As long as she can find bottles of her favorite California wines at the grocery store, she’s content. Megan Phenix and her older sister Nancy run a popular restaurant, The Phenix Grill. Eureka Springs being a pond with a limited selection of fish to choose from, Megan often finds herself the recipient of unwelcome advances from other women. After two relationships in which her girlfriends cheated on her, she’s more than happy to never date again. Yet, no matter how many times she tells women she is not interested, at all, they persist. “Oh, you’re just playing hard to get” they tell her.
When the two women first meet, Megan is running red from Mary Beth’s attempts to blackmail her into a date. The last thing she wants to deal with is the parking spots in front of the business next door. Leah treats Megan’s rage over the parking with a sort of bemused tolerance. The older woman seems like a solid oak tree weathering Megan’s tempest. However, both women share a desire to avoid dating. They soon devise a plan to faux date, hoping to lead women off their scent. The more they struggle to convince Mary Beth and the rest that they really are a couple, the more they learn about each other. Romance isn’t far behind.
Mary Beth drove me crazy (“crazy” being a very mild term for how I feel), especially whenever Nancy would brush off her sister’s irritation and concerns with an “Oh, she’s just playing around, don’t take it so seriously”. Some variation of this refrain was oft repeated by Nancy when Megan was struggling with her stalker/harasser. Everyone in town cackles and gapes over the photos of Megan that Mary Beth posts on Facebook. Photos that were taken of a woman undressed without her consent. Only an outsider, Leah, attempts to intervene. At least Megan never let Nancy talk her into accepting this outrageous behavior. Through to the very last second, Megan held everyone accountable. If this had not been the case, I would have been very disappointed. A small dating pool does not equal an “anything goes” environment, as far as toxic actions and comments go.
Thankfully, Gerri Hill creates a compelling, frustrating interplay that makes Megan and Leah’s dating charade convincing. I also enjoy how the characters examine their thoughts on age and their reasons for dating certain types of people. I love how Megan stood up for herself, even when everyone around her seemed to tell her that she deserved to be treated in a way counter to positive mental health. Leah’s character demonstrates how (when some folks might consider 51 “too old”) it’s never too late to shed what doesn’t work anymore for a newer, truer path.
Nicol Zanzarella delivers an engrossing listening experience as she embodies the story through strong characterization. The emotional weight bore by the main characters reveals itself through her versatile narration. Leah’s voice reflects the strength and patience inherent in a person who truly knows who they are, no matter the situation or location. Zanzarella’s portrayal of Megan, on the other hand, conveys agitation and annoyance through quickened pace and a raised, insistent pitch. Mary Beth’s manipulative and infuriating behavior is enhanced two-fold. If I thought I couldn’t loathe her more, Zanzarella’s narration proves otherwise. The rest of the cast is similarly formed, attention paid to their individual quirks flavoring the identity of the small community.
The Roundabout takes listeners on a satisfying, roundabout route to love and affirmation. It is an emotionally engaging story paired with fantastic narration. Gerri Hill is an author that I can pick up and know a satisfying literary experience awaits. Make sure to add this one to your TBR (TBL – listen) list today!
Join the discussion on Goodreads!