Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos (Blackstone)

Earphones Winner

Kallos’s second novel is rife with opportunities for the audio narrator, and Tavia Gilbert takes full advantage. There’s the persona of MS-ridden Hope, who disappeared in a Nebraska tornado years ago but whose diary entries punctuate the story. Her three children develop into a womanizing TV weatherman, a compulsive art professor, and a young woman who does odd jobs and is dying to have a baby. They become distinct personalities, thanks to Gilbert’s expert characterizations. Then there’s the small, mostly Welsh, town with a personality of its own. In clear and impeccable diction, Gilbert recounts kiddie beauty pageants, fancy egg festivals, and week-long funerals. Getting into this may take a bit, but Gilbert will hook listeners. And she gets to sing in Welsh! AudioFile

Aneira Hope Jones’ disappearance—swept up by a tornado in 1978—defined the lives of her three children, Larken, Gaelen, and Bonnie. Twenty-five years later, the siblings gather for their father’s funeral, and through a series of flashbacks, their lives emerge, as do the characters, customs, and rituals of a small town in southeastern Nebraska. Music underscores both this recording and the townspeople. Gilbert provides a distinctive voice and personality for the three siblings, from the alto of overweight art history professor Larken and the baritone of handsome weatherman Gaelen to the fluting soprano of flower child Bonnie. Excerpts from Aneira’s diary are also read, in lighter tones. This stirring musical drama is driven by death and weather, the most certain and uncertain elements in life. Gilbert’s musical talent shines through, both in song and her engaging reading of Kallos’ lyrical prose. A heartwarming story, complete with a happy ending. Booklist

Kallos’s second novel tells the story of the three Jones children, Larken, Gaelen and Bonnie, as they try to come to terms with their mother’s mysterious death after she is swallowed up by a tornado that touched down in their small town in Nebraska. The children must live their life under the microscope of the townspeople’s collective interest while trying to create their own life and legacy and distance themselves from their mother’s death. Tavia Gilbert brings additional vibrancy to Kallos’s original and affecting novel. Gilbert manages to capture the underlying melancholy of the novel while creating complex and believable characters. With a compelling stage presence, she brings this story to life with an inspired reading that demonstrates her performance ability and creative sensibility. Publishers Weekly