Thank you to both Random House Canada and Simon & Schuster Audio for the pleasure of Nora Webster. I actually closed out my 2014 audiobook listening to Nora Webster…so I’m quite delinquent in writing this aren’t I? It was a lovely way to close out 2014, as Nora Webster was a lovely, quiet and touching read. I was quite reminded of David Bergen’s, The Age of Hope.
Fiona Shaw is the narrator for Nora Webster and did she not have this wonderful and kindly voice to make this quiet story about Nora a touch more enjoyable? I’m certain either format you choose to read Nora Webster will provide the comfort this type of books lends, but Fiona’s Irish lilt provides a lovely authenticity to this tale.
Nora Webster centers on the life of Nora and the reader is brought into the folds of her life at the time following the death of her beloved husband, also a well-respected member of the community (but from a cause that remains unknown to the reader). We only know that Nora spent a few months by his side until his death, leaving two of her four children with a relative during this time at his side. Nora has four children, although the two elder daughters are out of the house, leaving the two young, school-aged boys for Nora to raise now on her own. This is the story of how she must move forward in her life as a widow and the challenges and changes that brings to her new life.
It was while listening the part of the book, where Nora has left her boys with their aunt for many months without calling to communicate with them, where my heart broke wide open. Her one son becomes so traumatized by her absence, he developed a stutter, or stammer, as it is called in the story. And Fiona Shaw delivers this stammered voice expertly. Nora is lectured by this relative for turning her back on her boys when they needed her most, for they too have lost someone great and important in their lives, their father, and why hadn’t Nora thought to call and soothe them or to say simply that she would be coming home. This was but one, and perhaps the greatest, touching moment in the story.
There were also moments when I would be smiling widely. Nora needed to return to work in order to support her family. The office where Nora works induced many chuckles from me because of the characters and stories of the flighty daughter of the owner and the stingy, overwrought-and-bearing supervisor. Here, Nora grows to quite despise this one woman but also, she learns to stand up for herself and to challenge or question her motives and tactics for acting like such a despicable person.
However, I will honestly say there were also many moments where I was quite frankly bored to tears. My mind wandered throughout these parts and they dragged down an otherwise quiet and comforting read. I read in one review that this could have made for a better novella. Perhaps, however, Nora Webster is largely a character-driven tale with no heavy plot to search for, and is what you would call a “quiet read”. This would be something to reach for when seeking a comfort or quiet read. For myself, it was a well-chosen read to close out my audio reading for the year, and the narration provided that extra level of enjoyment as well. 3 stars.