The new novel from Balli Kaur Jaswal, The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters, is a quietly radical feminist story of three estranged sisters who travel from the U.K. and Australia to their parents’ home country, India, to fulfill their mother’s dying wish. Their mother leaves them a detailed itinerary with activities meant to teach them about being better people and better sisters. Each sister is facing her own crisis at home. One is freaking out about becoming a grandmother, as her son has barely finished high school; another is an actress who has become an unfortunate YouTube sensation; and the youngest has a very traditional husband and an overbearing mother-in-law. They learn to embrace the old ways but are also confronted with very modern issues. Great narration by Soneela Nankani and Deepti Gupta are fun when they need to be but also carry an emotional weight.
If you didn’t have the chance to see Tony Kushner’s Angels in America on Broadway, this is the next best thing. Originally staged on Broadway in 1993, the play is set at the height of the AIDS crisis in 1986 New York City and follows several characters whose lives are impacted by the disease as they confront mortality, loyalty, religion and Reagan-era politics. The audiobook features the full cast of the 2018 Tony Award-winning Broadway revival, and performances by Andrew Garfield, Nathan Lane, Susan Brown, Denise Gough, Beth Malone, James McArdle, Lee Pace and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett are masterful, as you would expect from actors who have spent hundreds of hours in these roles. Stage directions, spoken by Bobby Cannavale and Edie Falco, help orient the action without slowing anything down. This is an important documentation of an era and a valuable story to retell for future generations.
Normal People, the second novel by Sally Rooney, makes for absolutely stunning listening. Her writing style is measured and tight, and she understands her characters as psychologically rich, full beings. The story follows Marianne and Connell, the smartest in their small Irish town’s high school class. However, he’s popular and she’s not, and she’s rich and he’s not. Their love affair begins as a secret and ebbs and flows through their time at Trinity College and after. Their story is an honest and focused portrait of two people becoming adults together and the ways life can get in the way. Aoife McMahon’s heartfelt narration is perfect. Her Irish accent adds to the sense of place and the class aspects that are so important to the novel.