Language Arts

by Stephanie Kallos
Published by Recorded Books
Contemporary Fiction

Booklist Starred Review

Since Gilbert has also narrated Kallos’ two previous novels, it’s no wonder that her exquisite performance is so perfectly attuned to the author’s tone and cadence. In the current day and through flashbacks, listeners meet high-school language-arts teacher Charles Marlow; his ex-wife, Alison; and their children, severely autistic Cody and college-bound Emmy. The present-day action puts them at a crossroads, needing to decide how to continue Cody’s care now that he is an adult. In the process, secrets from the past, slowly revealed as the layered story unfolds, come to light. Gilbert portrays Charles and Alison insightfully and convincingly. Lowering her voice for Charles, Gilbert reveals his sensitive, sensible nature. Alison speaks more forcefully but with loving understanding, anxious to motivate her husband to make decisions and to face unpleasant truths about the past. Cody, whose language disappeared early in his life, vocalizes with grunts and chirps, while Charles’ autistic grade-school classmate, seen in flashbacks, speaks in an authentic-sounding cadence. Gilbert’s lovely singing voice is also on display in sections featuring Sister Giorgio, who lives in Cody’s facility and rambles on in lyrical Italian. While this novel explores the ways we communicate and survive, Gilbert’s masterful reading communicates on a deeper level, evoking the vividly drawn characters and their stories in a particularly heartwarming and heart-wrenching manner. Booklist


Narrator Tavia Gilbert provides a superb performance of this movingly introspective novel. Charles Marlow is a high school English teacher whose unruffled facade conceals deep heartache as well as devotion. As the artful narrative conveys Marlow’s story, Gilbert also voices the lingering tenderness and bitterness of Marlow’s ex-wife and the earnestness of his college-age daughter. She’s masterful at voicing the Italian outbursts of Sister Giorgia, using cadence and emotion to reveal meaning behind her otherwise senseless declarations. Even the single-syllable grunts of Marlow’s severely autistic son are given expression in Gilbert’s delivery. The surprising common thread of Palmer penmanship weaves these richly drawn characters together as each struggles to communicate in his or her own way. AudioFile Magazine