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Alice McDermott, read by Kate Reading. Macmillan Audio, unabridged, six CDs, 8 hrs., $29.99 ISBN 978-1-4272-1310-5

The challenge of narrating McDermott’s latest novel is its impressionistic quality—the story wends back and forth through time, from prewar childhood in Brooklyn to middle-aged parenthood, old age, and back again. The one constant in the book is the protagonist, Marie, who has compromised eyesight, but offers keen observations about human nature. In this audio edition Kate Reading provides a needed constancy. Her female characters have a world-weariness about them. Whether they are sighing with subtle disappointment at a daughter’s inability to bake bread or keening with grief in the neighborhood funeral home, Reading makes their range of emotions entirely believable. She is not quite as successful with the novel’s male characters, which lack vocal differentiation. Even Marie’s sensitive brother Gabe and her entirely insensitive boyfriend, Walter, sound much the same. But, considering how much of the novel is about women’s lives and experiences, this is a minor flaw in an otherwise excellent performance. An FSG hardcover. (Sept.)