BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

What Could Be Saved by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz [in Booklist]

Here’s where veteran narrator Lisa Flanagan excels: unflaggingly individualizing myriad varied characters. Here’s where she disappoints: stumbling over non-English words and using a grating French accent. Quibbles aside, Flanagan consistently, remarkably maintains distinct voices for the peripatetic Preston family in Liese O’Halloran Schwarz’s (The Possible World, 2018) dual narratives set 47 years apart.

In 1972, Robert Preston relocates wife Genevieve and their three children to Bangkok, where they are surrounded by fellow ex-pats, high walls, and exclusive privilege. Robert works mysterious long hours; Genevieve manages servants, throws parties, and has an affair. The children adapt, until middle child Philip disappears.

In DC in 2019, Robert is long dead, Genevieve has dementia, oldest child Bea is still formidably responsible, and youngest child Laura is a middle-aged artist. And then an email arrives claiming Philip is still alive. Only Laura believes and impulsively returns to Thailand to bring the stranger home.

Beyond her protagonists, Schwarz provides Flanagan with an enhancing supporting cast – the biting wives, the naïve village girls, the cynical colleagues. Over 15.5 hours, Flanagan adroitly closes Schwarz’s almost-half-century gap.

Review: “Media,” Booklist Online, March 26, 2021

Readers: Adult

Published: 2021

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