Cleaning Nabokov’s House by Leslie Daniels read by Bernadette Dunne

“John has left me his town. Although now that his town didn’t have the children in it..”

The demented but funny* ex-wife of a husband who should have come with instructions on how to load the dishwasher invites our sympathy because:

1. the ex-person has custody of the children
2. she is vaguely overweight
3. her mother doesn’t recognize her voice on the phone [“Your father could talk to anybody, to Osama Bin Laden” as though there was another Bin Laden who was a better conversationalist.]
4. she opens a cat-house for middle-aged women with nothing to do but paint their bathrooms and get pedicures

She finds an old delapidated lodge just outside of the dull little University town of Onkwedo, hires the men’s crew team as research assistants for a science experiment on female sexual response, and launches her career as a Madame while she finishes a novel by Nabokov on the side.

She interviews with a potential sex-worker:

Sydney Walker carefully arranged a tiny ipod system with speakers …on the mantle above the fireplace. He turned on a Los Lonely Boys song, Heaven, and began to strip. It was the most interesting thing I’d watched since they put a mirror up for the birth of [my daughter].

She looks for a new place to live:

It looked as if a young architect, fresh from Onkwedo’s own Wainwright University, had fallen in love with Frank Lloyd Wright, bought himself a pile of wood, borrowed a hammer and set to work. Like the Second Little Pig had been schooled at the Bauhaus.

She goes to New York City to meet with a lawyer:

I wondered if his real name was Max or whether the company had merely insisted on something mono-syllabic.

She goes out on a date:

I used to be a catch. Dated three or four at a time. I burned out. And when they show up with those big pocketbooks I know I am in trouble… They bring their own sex toys. Is that progress? I feel like the Hoover guy….

Threading the Needle by Marie Bostwick read by Hilary Huber, Bernadette Dunne

Imagine a Cobbled Court Quilt Shop. A Blue Bean Bakery. A For the Love of Lavender Herbal Boutique. Farms, handiwork, handicraft, prudent, helpful, hardware-toting neighbors, dainty small town gossip, happy volunteers, lavender soap: the fantasmatic drift of post-Madoff sub-urban female regret. What does a pretty pacified community look like when the women take over the finances and the values? New Bern, Connecticut.

Madelyn, “the widow Madoff”, is back in New Bern, Connecticut because that’s where the inherited house is located. But she might as well be “the ex-Mrs. Madoff” or the “Green Mrs. Madoff” or the “recovering Mrs. Madoff”. She and the house are ready for a reconstruction. Tessa is a new Christian, newly broke. She runs a lavender shop and quilts and prays. Listen:

..Then one day when I was in the shop, repairing some stitching on Madelyn’s quilt, I started praying. I prayed for Lee, for Josh, for Madelyn, for Margo, for Virginia, Evelyn, for all my doubts and worries as well as all the things I’m grateful for… Somehow as I was praying, rocking that needle back and forth the way Virginia taught me, I forgot to be awkward. Prayer flowed from me naturally, in a plain and continuous pattern that mirrored the motion of my needle; simple, rhythmic, thought by thought, stitch by stitch, forgetting to be worried about the outcome, focused only on that stitch, that inch, that curve, until I came to the end of my thread and myself and pulled my gaze back to discover the bigger picture….

Madelyn rebuilds her life at the same time she rebuilds the old house, from the inside out, with the help of a one-eyed recovering alcoholic Vietnam Veteran who runs the hardware store, and Tessa, and Lee, Tessa’s reconstructed farmer-accountant-husband, and all the girls from the Quilting Circle, and their friends…

To Be Sung Underwater by Tom McNeal narrated by Susan Boyce

What starts up as an Insider’s Guide to storage in L.A. develops into a diary by Holden Caulfield’s bitch-sister, grown up into another alienated and out of joint L.A. wife.

Judith was a thoroughly unpleasant daughter with a borderline personality disorder of a father who grew tomatoes in Nebraska and a mother in Vermont who collected nasty pronouncements about marriage in general and her father in particular. (“Our marriage, like all marriages, was happy until it wasn’t.” “Your father seemed happiest living in the rooms the rest of us weren’t permitted to enter.”)

Today Judith is a thoroughly unpleasant and increasingly dissociated wife who believes that her husband is having an affair with his fastidious secretary Miss Metcalfe.

By Chapter Ten, Judith has decided to move into her storage space, along with her old furniture, an identity named “Edie Winks” and her fantasies of an old beau in Rufus Sage, Nebraska…

The story flickers back and forth between the teenage Judith and the Judith in storage, much like Judith herself flickers on and off between emotional positions, postures, roles.

A Table by the Window by Lawana Blackwell read by Andrea Gallo

When she catches some of her wealthy highschool students plagiarizing their English papers, Carly wants to fail them. Instead, the School Headmistress tells her that she is being vindictive, and that Carly must overlook the “childish lapse in judgement” and give them another chance. It is on that very same morning that Carly is told that her grandmother has died, that she has inherited a house in Tulula, Mississippi.

It is not obvious that an educated single woman would want to leave San Francisco for a tiny little Southern town where little old ladies go to buy antiques and collectibles. And yet, Carly is charmed. She is also willful, pragmatic, resourceful, and a good cook. She does not look in a mirror in order to describe herself to us. She does not go shopping for shoes. She does not think about clothes, or boys. She buys books. She thinks about her white trash mother and her insecure childhood. She longs for a family she does not have. She wants to be useful, helpful, economic.

Perhaps the will to be economic is taking the place of the will to be free, for this type of woman, this type of American, in this type of century.

Too Many Murders by Colleen McCullough read by Charles Leggett

There is no question that there is a story here, about an otherwise nice city and an otherwise nice cop who is married to a rather understanding Englishwoman.  But it is not a story about the city and the cop and the Englishwoman in the 1960s.

It is not enough to reference an occasional Communist, to talk about Reds, or to look for a microdot.  Crimes, too, need to be referenced  with other crimes on the street at the time. To write about a cop in the sixties is not to write about a cop in 2011, without the cell phone , the laptop and the extra 30 pounds. Something must be also be said about what people who the cop doesn’t know assume, believe, and feel. What are the truisms of  1967? What are the common sense things that “everybody” knows so well that nobody needs to say anything about? Still yet, what are the things that nobody talks about and everybody sort of knows? Things not spoken earmark an era.

Unfortunately, the sixties just seem to get in the way of  this story.  The characters, however, are strong and sturdy types and deserve a place in 21st century Connecticut or New York or London. As do the criminals, and the sexual deviances.