Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Ravens by George Dawes Green (unabridged audio book read by Robert Petkoff and Maggi-Meg Reed)

Tara Boatwright's life is about to change, and when she first hears the news, she doesn't even believe it as her mother, Patsy, screams that they've just won the $318 million lottery jackpot. Tara sees this as her opportunity to get out of Brunswick, Georgia, but a couple of outsiders have other ideas. Ravens is author George Dawes Green's first novel since his 1995 bestseller The Juror. (He won an Edgar Award for his debut, 1994's The Caveman's Valentine. Both were made into movies.)

Shaw McBride and Romeo Zderko are Ohioans who have hit the road trying to escape their soul-killing tech-support jobs. Stopping off in Georgia on their way to Florida, Shaw overhears the news of the lottery win and immediately sees it as an opportunity not to be missed. He decides that he will get the Boatwrights to give him half of their winnings, and uses Romeo as an off-site enforcer, giving him a gun and a map to the homes of the family's loved ones.

But navigating Georgia backroads waiting for Shaw's signal (or lack of one, as the case may be) leaves one time for reflection. Romeo begins having second thoughts about all the things he's done for Shaw and whether he really wants to continue.

In Ravens, Green and his co-author, Molly Friedrich, have great insight into their characters. (Friedrich is credited in the acknowledgments, and she is also Green's literary agent.) This is no better displayed than with Patsy Boatwright's quick descent from unbelievable riches to greed. She actually gets angry that, instead of her $40 million dream home, she can only afford upkeep on a $22 million "snack bar." Equally fascinating is Tara's friend Cleo, who represents the effect of the Boatwrights' lottery winnings on the supporting players in the family's life.

Though a single narrator is the general tactic with audiobooks, some books get deeper into the character's psyches, and multiple readers are needed to do the work justice. (Reservation Road was another notable case.) With Robert Petkoff (Beat the Reaper, BoneMan's Daughters) handling the perspectives of outsiders Shaw and Romeo, Maggi-Meg Reed is able to devote her talents to the Southern-accented Boatwright clan.

This double-narrator arrangement makes it easy to detect a change in point of view as well as making the contrast greater between captors and captives. And therefore, it serves to enhance the experience of Ravens, a story of faith, love, power, and hypocrisy, with more than a little dramatization of Stockholm Syndrome, into something larger than mere text can provide.

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