The Last Word: Audios of Posthumously Published Books – Part 2 [in Booklist]
The one thing in life that’s guaranteed is, well, death. But books are certainly a lasting legacy. And sometimes, when we get the books after their creator has passed on, an audiobook can breathe new life into the text, animating from beyond. A bittersweet legacy, indeed, but we’re grateful to have them at all.
In the April 29, 2019 issue of All Things Audio, we shared a half-dozen of those audiobooks. Here, in part 2, we’ve got a handful more of these posthumously published titles in their aural incarnations.
The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying. By Nina Riggs. Read by Cassandra Campbell and Kirby Heyborne. 2019. 7.5hr. Simon & Schuster Audio, CD, $34.99 (9781508281993).
For a book about fatal diseases – Riggs was diagnosed at 37 with breast cancer, her mother with multiple myeloma from which she died just months before her daughter – The Bright Hour is exactly that, bright with joy, laughter, and enveloping love. Riggs never loses sight of what inspires her, nurtures her, even as her “days are filled with imagining how to wind things down.” Riggs finds calm in the writings of her great-great-great grandfather, Ralph Waldo Emerson (a heavy legacy she occasionally eschewed), twinned with 16th-century philosopher Michel de Montaigne’s meditations. Her ruminations about her diagnosis, treatments, and losses are honest with pain and frustration, but grace and courage prevail. Campbell gently narrates most of the work, until Heyborne takes over to read the afterword by Riggs’s husband, John, and shatters your heart.
The Caregiver. By Samuel Park. Read by Cassandra Campbell. 2019. 8hr. Simon & Schuster Audio, CD, $39.99 (9781508268048).
In April 2017, 41-year-old Park (This Burns My Heart) died of stomach cancer. His sophomore title was published 17 months later, aided by close friend and novelist Curtis Sittenfeld. Park inserts his diagnosis here, introducing Mara, the titular caregiver for a lonely 40-something woman with stomach cancer. Mara is already familiar with loss, raised in Rio de Janeiro as the only child of a chimerical single mother for whom Mara was as much caretaker as she was taken care of by her. Park hauntingly examines the codependent mother-daughter bond amid complicated layers created by the pursuit of truth.
Dying: A Memoir. By Cory Taylor. Read by Larissa Gallagher. 2017. 4hr. HighBridge, CD, $24.99 (9781681686554).
“I am making dying bearable for myself,” Taylor reveals in her last book, originally published in her native Australia just months after she passed away from melanoma at 61. Taylor writes with crisp, unadorned clarity, determined to tell her own story about the difficult family she was born into and the nourishing haven she created with her husband and two sons. That beloved husband and their children’s faces became the “short answer to what [she’ll] miss most.” The long answer, “the world and everything in it.” Australian native Gallagher graciously, heart-wrenchingly gives Taylor posthumous voice.
Every Man Dies Alone. By Hans Fallada, translated by Michael Hofman. Read by George Guidall. 2010. 20hr. Recorded Books, CD, $78.75 (9781440769658).
In early-1940s wartime Berlin, an official letter arrives for Otto and Anna Quangel with the unbearable news that their only son is dead. Anna immediately rejects “‘those common lies … [t]hat he died a hero’s death for Führer and Fatherland’” – and in that instant, the Quangels’ lives are changed forever. Fallada wrote Every Man in a remarkable 24 days but didn’t live to see the book published in 1947; it was then one of the first anti-Nazi titles ever. Perennial favorite reader Guidall’s narration is, as always, stupendous.
Herland. By Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Read by William Dufris. 2011. 7hr. Tantor, CD, $54.99 (9781452631745).
Best known for her canonic, autobiographical short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Gilman remains one of history’s greatest feminists. Written in 1915, Herland was initially serialized in Gilman’s own magazine, The Forerunner, but didn’t appear in book-form until 1979. Herland is the second – and best-known, critically and academically – in Gilman’s posthumously named Utopian trilogy. The first audio adaptation appeared in 2011, amiably read by veteran voice actor Dufris.
House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East. By Anthony Shadid. Read by Neil Shah. 2012. 13hr. Blackstone, CD, $29.95 (9781455156627).
When Shadid’s own nuclear family falls apart, he returns to Marjayoun, Lebanon in August 2007 to rebuild his great-grandfather’s house. Just before publication, Shadid died of an asthma attack. Shadid populates his odyssey with a cast of encouraging, truculent, self-important, even comical characters (many distantly related, of course!), all of whom veteran narrator Shah chimerically embodies. He reverently conveys Shadid’s superb journalistic acuity to create a gorgeous patchwork of family and country, of leaving and return, and most of all, of stories worth preserving.
Notes from a Black Woman’s Diary: Selected Works of Kathleen Collins. By a full cast. 2019. 10hr. Harper, DD, $26.99 (9780062892270).
After the 2014 reintroduction of her groundbreaking 1982 movie, Losing Ground, and the 2016 publication of Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? Collins, who died in 1988, continues her posthumous comeback with this prodigious, diverse compilation, edited by her daughter Nina Collins, who also lends her voice to the full-cast narration featuring January LaVoy, Robin Miles, Bahni Turpin, Adenrele Ojo, and Mari.
The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After. By Julie Yip-Williams. Read by Emily Woo Zeller and Joshua Williams. 2019. 11.5hr. Books on Tape, DD, $76 (9781984840981).
The miracles were many: “born poor and blind in Vietnam on the losing side of a bloody civil war,” Yip-Williams survived her grandmother’s demand to have her killed, escaped on a leaky boat with her family to Hong Kong, arrived as a refugee in the U.S. and thrived to become a Harvard-degreed lawyer, traveled the world alone despite visual constraints, found her soulmate and brought two glorious daughters into the world. Then at 37, those miracles began to unwind with a Stage IV cancer diagnosis. She begins here with her ending – her death revealed on the first page.