The Signature of All Things

18 CDs. retail ed. unabridged. 22 hrs. Penguin Random Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781611762020. $39.95; Playaway digital; digital download. F
OrangeReviewStarGilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) returns to fiction with a sprawling 19th-century saga about a young botanist, Alma Whittaker. Alma's fascination with plants (mosses in particular), combined with her recently broken heart, leads her from her birthplace of Philadelphia to Tahiti and, eventually, to the formulation of her "Theory of Competitive Alteration." Substitute finches for mosses and the Galapagos Islands for Tahiti, and you will see where Alma is headed with her ideas about how plant life evolves in order to survive. Beautifully read by the English actress Juliet Stevenson, this audiobook encompasses Alma's experiences with natural science, love, loss, and enlightenment and delivers a cracking good story in the process.
VERDICT Highly recommended. ["Gilbert's (Stern Men) first novel in 13 years gets off to a strong and compelling start but loses its way midpoint; awkward plot points make the second half feel at times like another book entirely," read the less impressed review of the Viking hc, LJ 10/1/13.]

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