“There, There,” by Tommy Orange. (Random House Audio, unabridged, 8 hours.)
Tommy Orange’s debut novel begins with a heartbreaking prologue on the history of America’s indigenous peoples — from the first “Thanksgiving” through massacre and expulsion to the lives of present-day “urban Indians.” Darrell Dennis, a Canadian-born member of the Shuswap Nation, narrates this section in a voice of deadly calm, making it all the more chilling. The rest of the novel, set primarily in Oakland, Calif., follows three generations of Indian men and women struggling against alcoholism, drug addiction, violence, sexual abuse, obesity, debt and depression. These are grim circumstances, but the characters are fully realized people of great courage, curiosity and ingenuity. The richly detailed story lines gradually converge and culminate at a Big Oakland Powwow. Four versatile, empathetic actors narrate the novel’s sections; Dennis and Shaun Taylor-Corbett deliver those devoted to male characters, while Alma Cuervo and Kyla Garcia take on those of the women. Each brings emotional force and a sense of personality to the lives depicted here, further amplifying the strong voices present on the page.
“Reporter,” by Seymour Hersh. (Random House Audio, unabridged, 14 hours.)
“My career has been all about the importance of telling important and unwanted truths,” Seymour Hersh announces in this unflinching memoir of his life and career. The son of Jewish immigrants who ran a dry-cleaning shop on Chicago’s South Side, Hersh built a career exposing one rotten mess after another: U.S. development of chemical and biological weapons; the pervasive lies of military spokesmen about a bungled, unwinnable war in Vietnam; the My Lai Massacre; domestic spying; the paralyzing rivalry between the FBI, the CIA and the NSA; the torture of prisoners and the back story of the U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound. A dyed-in-the-wool skeptic, a dogged sleuth and a gadfly, Hersh has won praise, criticism — and a Pulitzer — for his fearless work. Here he is generous with previously undisclosed material, including details about the dysfunctional presidential campaign of Eugene McCarthy, where he spent a few fraught months as press secretary. He reports, too, on his struggles with editors, who, he explains charitably, “get tired of difficult stories and difficult reporters.” Arthur Morey delivers this thoroughly absorbing memoir in a clear, well-paced, just-the-facts voice.
“My Ex-Life,” by Stephen McCauley. (MacMillan Audio, unabridged, 10 1/4 hours.)
Stephen McCauley’s novel “My Ex-Life” is an ebullient comedy of manners, a painful exploration of the past and a story of friendship. David Hedges — a 50-something living in San Francisco in a rent-controlled carriage house on the brink of being sold — is a college-prep coach for children of the wealthy. His young boyfriend has left him for a rich man, and he is getting fat. This sad state of affairs takes a turn when David gets a call from his ex-wife, Julie, to whom he hasn’t spoken in decades. She has just been abandoned by her second husband and wonders if David can visit her in Massachusetts and help her daughter get into college. David answers yes and moves into a tiny room in Julie’s decaying mansion. The novel is filled with wonderfully and wickedly drawn characters and satirical depictions of the way we live now. George Newbern narrates the book with perfect amiability and delivers its many sallies of wit and one-liners with impeccable timing and poise.
Katherine A. Powers, a Minnesota native, reviews for Barnes & Noble, Newsday, the Star Tribune and elsewhere. She writes this column for the Washington Post.