Life Without Children: Stories

Penguin Random House Audio. Feb. 2022. 4:53 hrs. ISBN 9780593552971. $15. F
Booker finalizt Doyle (The Van) applies his wit and compassion to the challenges of COVID. Each story is a first-person account of the pandemic’s surreal presence in Ireland. “The Curfew” features a man as he recalls his father demanding, “Where are my pills?” while his mother frantically searches and worries that he’ll die if they aren’t quickly found. The music-rich “Worms” introduces Joe and Thelma, who rediscover each other as they share their earworms during lockdown. The title story is a weak addition, but the contrast between England’s and Ireland’s pandemic restrictions is intriguing. The final story, “The Five Lamps,” is heartbreaking as a father searches deserted Dublin for his drug-addicted son.
VERDICT Doyle splendidly narrates his own words using his harsh, raspy voice to good effect, and a gentler tone when required; his female voices are believable. Doyle’s unique style demonstrates that suffering is a commonality, not something to be endured in silence.
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