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Sunnyville by Ricko Donovan
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Sunnyville

by Ricko Donovan

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My original Sunnyville audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

In his debut novel, Ricko Donovan explores live, relationships, and death in a 55+ retirement community in Florida in 2004. The action takes place on the golf course, by the community pool and at the club house where the neighborhood is gearing up for Flora's 100th birthday party. Flora is temporarily looking after her great-great-granddaughter, Melinda, a teenager who is wise beyond her years, is struggling to fit in with her own age group, and has a difficult relationship with her hardworking mother. Newcomers Marion and her daughter, Elise, are visiting from France to care for Marion's sister, Mimi, who's been hospitalized after a stroke.

It took me a while to get into this. A lot of characters were introduced and the perspective kept switching frequently. I found it difficult to keep up with who's who, their connection and some of the dialogue. It became more engaging the more I listened, but I have to admit I never felt emotionally invested in the characters. I'm not sure whether it's just that I was perhaps not the right audience for this. For some reason, I had expected this to be more humorous than it was. But the strongest emotion this story evoked was actually anger at the character of Frank. His wife is increasingly gripped by dementia on top of a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. He's the only carer. Now, I realize caring on your own for a loved one whose mind is slipping and who may act erratically and/or is depressed is an immensely stressful and difficult job. But Frank deals with it either by denial or by whining about being late for golf, he locks(!) his wife in the property, and even when she pleads with him to accompany him to a social outing, he leaves her home alone while he goes off socializing. Because she may embarrass him! The ending was rather abrupt and left some things open to the interpretation of the listener, such as the storyline about Frank and his wife or Melinda and her mother. Honestly, being part of these characters' lives for ten hours didn't make me want to rush out and buy a place in such a community in preparation for retirement, but I guess that wasn't the author's intention here.

The author is also the narrator, and I assume it's his first experience of narrating an audiobook. As such, he was doing a reasonable job and you could tell by his enthusiasm this story obviously means a lot to him. He gave his characters different voices and while the female voices didn't always sound natural, he was keeping all the characters consistent. The pace was quite fast and sometimes it became noticeable that breathing became an issue during long sentences. My issue with the production was the music. It linked chapters and/or announced a switch of perspective. Unfortunately, the music and the narration overlapped making it difficult to hear some sentences.

I've found this review rather difficult to write, as I appreciate how much effort the author must have put into the writing of the book and the narration of the audiobook, and I would have loved to rate this higher. But this represents my honest review and as mentioned above, maybe I was just the wrong audience.

Audiobook was provided for review by the author. ( )
  audiobibliophile | Dec 5, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0991188217, Paperback)

A 2014 Nashville Lifestyles Magazine Summer Reading List pick- Marion Legrand arrives from France with her daughter after receiving a cryptic letter from her ailing sister Mimi, unaware of what lies in store for them in Florida. They are assailed by a coterie of oddballs at an "otherwise stable no-nonsense age discretionary retirement community". It's late-life crisis at Sunny Glen Palms, and from the golf greens to the clubhouse the veil of the American psyche is lifted, revealing the sometimes breezy sometimes topsy-turvy world of retirement. 'Oh I've wasted my mind don't you see, says Libby Alsatian, I've killed my mind and I have to fix it. Right here!' The residents' problems run the gamut from Alzheimer's disease, existential angst and anti-depressants to a major glitch in the plans for Flora Wheeler's monumental one hundredth birthday party.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 05 Dec 2016 08:28:36 -0500)

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