So — one thing I planned to do new this year with my blog is review audiobooks as well as regular novels. I used to listen to audiobooks all the time during my commute. I get them from the library and keep them in a basket in the front seat. Of course, having small children can put a damper on my listening as they don’t usually like what I’m listening to! (My two vote for the Magic Treehouse books on CD).
“What Matters Most” by Luanne Rice was an audiobook I grabbed at the “new releases” section of the library. The story follows two intersecting storylines: Bernadette and Tom come to Ireland to find the son they gave up for adoption 23 years earlier, while their son, James/Seamus searches for Kathleen his childhood love. Their stories intersect and come together, reaching a huge climactic ending.
Well – I have to say that this was my first Luanne Rice book. It’s considered a romance, a genre which I don’t read often. That said, this book was a mix of things for me. At times I found it unbelievable (more on this later). At times I found it long (11 CD’s worth). At times, though, I found myself thinking about these characters and going out to my car to sit and listen to this story! I would get frustrated with myself, since in one breath I’d think: “This is really terrific silliness” followed in the next by: “So – I wonder what’s going to happen?”
Here are the things I had problems with — according to the plot line, Bernie and Tom came to Ireland from the US 23 years earlier to help Tom find his lost family/relatives (the typical genealogical trip). Bernie, who is about to become a nun, accompanies him as it’s something she has “promised to do as a friend” (generally I think they frown on young nuns-to-be accompanying male friends on vacation, but that’s another discussion). While there, they have a moment of passion (if you get my drift) and Bernie finds herself pregnant. Now here’s the thing — Bernie has a vision of the Blessed Mother Mary which she interprets as Mary telling her to be a nun. So she gives the baby up for adoption, goes home, joins the convent with Tom hired on as groundskeeper (I would have thought that they would have considered some of this an impediment to her taking her vows, but apparently not), and then rises to become Mother Superior of her order. Now – 23 years later – she decides that perhaps Mary was telling her to be a MOTHER not be a NUN – so she goes to find her son (with Tom in tow).
As I was listening to this, I had to keep thinking “this is ridiculously implausible!” Added to this fact was that Bernie was pretty styling clothes-wise and with beautiful, long, flowing hair when she was sans habit (as opposed to looking demure or conservative). Bernie and Tom were portrayed as pretty much perfect — amazing people whom all admired and flocked to, due to their natural magnetism, charm, intelligence, and kindness. Seamus/James (their son) and Kathleen were portrayed similarly – though I did like Seamus’ reaction when he found out they were his parents (no hearty handshakes there – he was pretty angry).
As I reached disk 10 or 11 I had to wonder: how is this going to end? Will Bernie stay a nun? Will Tom go on as groundskeeper, content in seeing her at a distance? Will Seamus and Kathleen work out their missed years together and form a relationship? And here’s the most unbelievable thing of all : MAJOR SPOILER ALERT – SKIP TO BELOW IF YOU WANT – Tom drops dead of a heart attack. Well, that ended that. There’s of course more to the dénouement than that, but that gets you going!
So – overall, I can’t even give this a star rating as I don’t know what to put. I couldn’t stop listening to this story, even though I found it at times silly. I cared about these characters, even though I didn’t want to. I found myself checking out another Luanne Rice book at the library last week as if my hands had a will of their own.
What can I say???