AUDIO

The Caretaker

Books on Tape Sept. 2023. 6:03 hrs. ISBN 9780593213537. $57. F
COPY ISBN
Rash’s (The Risen) latest follows Blackburn Gant, whose life was derailed by a childhood bout of polio; he now works as a cemetery caretaker in 1950s North Carolina. Blackburn’s best friend Jacob is the son of the town’s wealthy Lampton family, who have disowned Jacob after his recent marriage to Naomi, his 16-year-old bride from Tennessee. When Jacob is drafted to fight in the Korean War, he begs Blackburn to look after Naomi, who is pregnant and has no other support. Blackburn takes this responsibility very seriously. Then tragedy strikes—Jacob is grievously wounded in Korea, and the tragic fallout, initiated by his Machiavellian parents, takes them all on a suspenseful and heartbreaking journey. Cronin narrates in a sympathetic tone, capturing Blackburn’s conflicted feelings about Jacob and the Lamptons and conveying the core of this intensely honorable, kind, and lonely man. He gives Naomi a bright energy and sweetness, followed by deep grief. He voices Jacob’s hateful parents equally vividly, helping to flesh out two villains consumed by a sick version of love. Cronin capably amps up the suspense to an almost unbearable level.
VERDICT Listeners will become utterly absorbed in this gothic drama with echoes of Wiley Cash and Tom Franklin.
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