Last weekend, I listened to two different audiobooks, which have very little in common. In fact, I think their only points of commonality were that they were short (less than 4 hours) and both by women.
The first one I listened to was Under One Roof by Ali Hazelwood, which follows environmental engineer Mara, who finds out she has inherited a home from her late mentor. However, she soon finds out that she only co-owns the home—the other owner is Liam, a lawyer for big oil. As might be expected, they clash… until they don’t. Because the more Mara learns about Liam, the harder it is to dislike him.
I’ve read The Love Hypothesis, which was charming, and this sounded like fun. I don’t think it was as enjoyable as her first novel, but it is still entertaining. While I found Mara’s initial antagonizing of Liam to be tiring and petty (though, I mean, it might be a little justified considering the type of company he works for), I was glad to see her character development. And their changing relationship from grudging roommates to genuine friends was sweet. And the ending—though very steamy so look out if you’re not into reading that—was nice. I kind of wish we could have dug deeper into Liam’s feelings toward physical relationships, though, because I feel that that would have been really interesting. It was refreshing to see a character, particularly a male character, portrayed as only somewhat/sometimes interested in sex. More of this diversity, please!
Beyond that, though, there isn’t really a lot to this story—it’s fluffy and funny, but there isn’t a ton of depth here. Nothing wrong with that, though; I enjoyed myself!
I also have to shout out the narrator Emma Wilder, too. She is very engaging to listen to, and is very adept at male voices, which I have found to not always be the case. Props to her!
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The other audiobook I listened to was Recitatif by Toni Morrison. It’s a short story only recently republished, with a new introduction by Zadie Smith. The story follows Twyla and Roberta, who are friends in St. Bonaventure shelter as children. Then, years later after they’ve lost touch, they run into each other again, then again, then again. Each time, they come into conflict over various things, even while aware of how much they’ve shared.
I’ve read Toni Morrison in school and think she’s great, but what really piqued my interest about this beyond her name was that this story is written specifically to challenge the reader’s perceptions of race. One of these ladies is Black, and the other is white, but Morrison leaves it ambiguous as to which is which. It’s honestly fascinating how well she does this, and though I wasn’t really actively trying to “solve” it, it was still amazing.
Zadie Smith’s introduction is excellent, too. She picks apart the intricacies of how this story was written, and why. She examines why race is important, and why in taking it away, Morrison is a genius. However, I didn’t expect the introduction to be so long (it’s like half the runtime of the audiobook), and I almost wonder if I’d have benefited from reading the story first, reading Smith’s introduction/analysis, and then reading it again. Still, the entire thing was definitely worth it.
In the end, both of these audiobooks were good, though for very different reasons. Under One Roof is pure guilty pleasure for those who like romcoms with two great protagonists. There’s humor, heart, and decent character development, though it’s not a perfect story for me. And conversely, Recitatif is a remarkable story by a powerhouse writer who knows how to pack a punch in just a few words. It’s thought-provoking, but I think I’d have benefited from taking more time to really study it. A reread will be in order someday, I feel.
According to libro.fm, Under One Roof is available in audio first, so I guess it’s not in print form yet. I assume it will be in the future, maybe in a bind-up with Hazelwood’s forthcoming novellas (a prolific writer, that one). Meanwhile, Recitatif is available in its new edition in both forms now!