cover image The Children’s Crusade

The Children’s Crusade

Ann Packer, read by multiple narrators. S&S Audio, unabridged, 12 CDs, 13 hrs., $39.99 ISBN 978-1-4423-8387-6

In 1954, pediatrician Bill Blair buys three acres of land in California and marries his girlfriend, Penny. They have four children. Dissatisfied as a housewife and mother, Penny moves into the shed, becomes an artist, and eventually abandons the family. The children grow up but still bear the emotional scars and resentments of childhood, which come to the fore when the youngest wants to sell their childhood home. This novel presents a challenge for audio: its chapters jump around among different time periods nonchronologically, and different chapters are told from different points of view—some are written in the omniscient third person, and others are told in first person from the grown children’s perspectives. Even with different actors for each first-person character, the story is hard to follow. The narrators all read with expression, but none makes any effort to differentiate the characters’ voices at all, save for a slightly higher pitch for female characters. So in scenes of all the adult children arguing, it’s difficult to keep track of who is saying what, especially since three of the four main characters have names beginning with R. This is one book that’s better fit for print. A Scribner hardcover. (Apr.)