Friday, October 01, 2010

Book Review: How Evan Broke his Head (and other secrets) by Garth Stein

From Garth Stein, the author of "The Art of Racing in the Rain", comes "How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets". I had already downloaded and started listening to "Room: A Novel" by Emma Donoghue - but just couldn't get into the story - despite the good reviews and it's status on the New York Times Bestsellers list - when the teaser note arrived from Audible. "TWO NEW RELEASES BY GARTH STEIN" - let's face it - I so adored "The Art of Racing in the Rain" that I would have dropped almost any book to start one of Garth's other novels - I didn't need the boldface blinking type. I had two choices - "Raven Stole the Moon" (Atria April 1st, 1998) and "How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets" (Atria April 1st, 2005). I chose "How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets" for no other reason that it was first alphabetically.

Evan is a thirty-one year old Seattle rocker. Living as an epileptic (that's the part about Evan breaking his head) he uses his epilepsy as a silent shield to keep the rest of the world out - and in the dark about his true condition. Until now, Evan has happily played the role of starving commitments and no strings. The disabled defective son of a successful doctor - living in the shadows of his perfect younger brother (who didn't break his head). Naturally, all of this changes when his high school girlfriend is killed in a tragic car accident, leaving behind their son Dean - whom Evan has never met.

Evan must re-evaluate his goals, his priorities and his path. That one hit single ten years ago is not enough. His one bedroom apartment in Seattle is not suitable for raising 14 year old Dean and there's the rub. Does he want to be a father? Does Dean want to be parented? Can Evan put down the shield and be honest with himself and the people who rotate around him? In order to be a father, Evan must address and review the relationship with his own parents.

I was not disappointed in my choice of audiobook - just as captivating as "The Art of Racing in the Rain", "How Evan Broke his Head" is really not about the life of the musician - but about the evolution of humanity - how one soul evolves. The process of changing priorities and the intrinsic troubles that go with them. I loved getting back into the car to listen to the next installment - and I rode along with the characters as they struggled with their new roles and relationships.

"How Evan Broke his Head" is not an intense listen - there is very little drama, nothing that will leave you on the edge of your seat - but the quality and originality of the story is superb. I've already downloaded "Raven Stole the Moon" for my next listen and I'm hoping for another magically wonderful story.

Narrator Oliver Wyman was a familiar voice (The Irresistible Henry House), and it did take me a few hours to get the impression of Henry Gaines out of my head - the voice of Evan certainly has a Henry-like quality. Mr. Wyman is an expert narrator, his vocal range and consistency was impressive - that willing suspension of disbelief - I stepped into the story and was completely unaware that the narration was a solo project.

"How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets" was written by Garth Stein and published in hardcover April 1st, 2005.  "How Evan Broke His Head" was published in audio format by Audible, Inc.and was released on September 21st, 2010. The audiobook was narrated by Oliver Wyman (The Irresistible Henry House). "How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets" is unabridged and has a run-time of 13 hours and 45 minutes.

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