Audiobook Review: Sweetland

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Sigh. I truly did not feel any of the same feelings for Sweetland as so many of my Goodreads friends had for it. And the feelings that so many others shared as well! Why? It just truly wasn’t the read for me. For a premise (shared below) that sounded so entirely beguiling and so very Canadian too, it just didn’t work out for me at all.

For twelve generations, when the fish were plentiful and when they all-but disappeared, the inhabitants of this remote island in Newfoundland have lived and died together. Now, in the second decade of the 21st century, they are facing resettlement, and each has been offered a generous compensation package to leave. But the money is offered with a proviso: everyone has to go; the government won’t be responsible for one crazy coot who chooses to stay alone on an island.
That coot is Moses Sweetland. Motivated in part by a sense of history and belonging, haunted by memories of the short and lonely time he spent away from his home as a younger man, and concerned that his somewhat eccentric great-nephew will will wilt on the mainland, Moses refuses to leave. But in the face of determined, sometimes violent, opposition from his family and his friends, Sweetland is eventually swayed to sign on to the government’s plan. Then a tragic accident prompts him to fake his own death and stay on the deserted island. As he manages a desperately diminishing food supply, and battles against the ravages of weather, Sweetland finds himself in the company of the vibrant ghosts of the former islanders, whose porch lights still seem to turn on at night.

Originally, I started reading Sweetland in hard copy, thanks to the generosity of Random House Canada. I was only able to get through the first quarter? I kept putting it aside, I found other books to pick up before returning to it, and finally realized after continually replacing it with other reads, I was falsely imagining I was going to return to it anytime sooner. If I’m making that many excuses and replacing it with read after read and other book after other book, I knew I wouldn’t be returning to it as I originally imagined.  In reading the hard copy version, I found it too slow of a read to keep me turning to it at every chance available. And, really, I am not one to shy from a lovely quiet read either. I adore lovely quiet reads. Especially those written by beloved Canadian authors such as Michael Crummey. I’ve shared my love for those similar types of reads like Tell, by Frances Itani and two by David Bergen: The Age of Hope and Leaving Tomorrow, for instance. Bergen, for certain, is an author that appeals to a smaller audience it seems. Therefore, I was certainly surprised I wasn’t connecting to Crummey’s Sweetland, like I have with Bergen’s works.

Then, thanks to the Audiobook Jukebox and Highbridge Audio, I was able to access the audiobook. That’s usually a winning situation here for the Hoarders! And to sweeten that find…John Lee was narrating Moses Sweetland’s story. I adored John Lee’s narration in A Fine Balance, so I was waiting on pins and needles for this audiobook to arrive. I anticipated Lee’s narration to make this quiet story sing for me.  Here? Not so much. 🙁

It was almost as if he were speaking at 1.5x speed? His narration was doing nothing to help add to the enjoyment I expected. Oh, certainly, the voice he gave Moses Sweetland and the other inhabitants of the island were spot on, but coupling that rapid-fire narration with the, to be perfectly honest, tedious and mundane parts to this story, where every single part of every single moment of every single action drove me to distraction. I will admit to frequently complaining about my boredom with this story to fellow Hoarder Elizabeth. So much so I’m sure she started to simply delete my texts. 😉

I think that was for me, (because it clearly wasn’t the case for so many others) the foundation of why I could not settle into this story or enjoy it as much as others have shared. The premise is a wonderful one, certainly, and as I mentioned above, I very much enjoy quiet and unassuming reads, but to be blunt and brutally honest in this case, I could not get over how utterly bored I was with Sweetland. I’ll freely admit to skimming (or skipping on the CDs). The moments that seemed to go on and on and on about the search for toilet paper, the gutting of fish and a stormy boat ride, for instance, almost did me in. It was moments like those where the texts to Elizabeth probably got out of control and I’m sure she questioned why I was continuing with it, as it was so apparent it was torturing me so.

I did keep (quite frequently too!) returning to those stellar reviews for it on Goodreads (where they were predominantly 5 star reviews) to see what it was that I was missing. Clearly I was missing something?? Yet, no, there really wasn’t anything that I was missing, it just seems to completely be the case where this wasn’t the book/read for me. And that’s fine – we don’t all read the same book the same way. What’s good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander, right? We’ll just leave it at that.

Literary Hoarders Penny rev