Old Babes in the Wood: Stories

Books on Tape. Mar. 2023. 8:45 hrs. ISBN 9780593666593. $85.50. F
Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale; Burning Questions: Essays and Occasional Pieces, 2004 to 2021) delights with her first collection of short stories since 2014’s Stone Mattress. Some of the 15 stories were previously in the New Yorker and the New York Times Magazine, while others are original to this collection. The audio is performed by a full ensemble of stellar narrators, including Linda Lavin, Dan Stevens, Kimberly Farr, Rebecca Lowman, Bahni Turpin, Dawn Harvey, and Allan Corduner. Half of the tales center on the lives of married couple Tig and Nell, as remembered by Nell, who is voiced somewhat awkwardly by Atwood herself. Other stories depart dramatically from the Tig and Nell stories and feature a mix of dystopian science fiction, speculative fiction, grim humor, and fantasy. Despite the considerable talents of the narrators, the collection is not an easy listen, as it requires its audience to shift gears from lyrical reflections on loss and mortality to worlds populated by witches, aliens, and Greek philosophers. Some stories are long enough to be novellas, while others seem almost unfinished.
VERDICT Expect many holds; this multifaceted collection should appeal to listeners looking to explore grief, aging, and the intimate bonds between loved ones.
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