From the author of My Oxford Year, Julia Whelan’s uplifting novel tells the story of a former actress turned successful audiobook narrator—who has lost sight of her dreams after a tragic accident—and her journey of self-discovery, love, and acceptance when she agrees to narrate one last romance novel.
For Sewanee Chester, being an audiobook narrator is a long way from her old dreams, but the days of being a star on film sets are long behind her. She’s found success and satisfaction from the inside of a sound booth and it allows her to care for her beloved, ailing grandmother. When she arrives in Las Vegas last-minute for a book convention, Sewanee unexpectedly spends a whirlwind night with a charming stranger.
On her return home, Sewanee discovers one of the world’s most beloved romance novelists wanted her to perform her last book—with Brock McNight, the industry’s hottest, most secretive voice. Sewanee doesn’t buy what romance novels are selling—not after her own dreams were tragically cut short—and she stopped narrating them years ago. But her admiration of the late author, and the opportunity to get her grandmother more help, makes her decision for her.
As Sewanee begins work on the book, resurrecting her old romance pseudonym, she and Brock forge a real connection, hidden behind the comfort of anonymity. Soon, she is dreaming again, but secrets are revealed, and the realities of life come crashing down around her once more.
If she can learn to risk everything for desires she has long buried, she will discover a world of intimacy and acceptance she never believed would be hers.
What’s it about (in a nutshell):
Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan is a contemporary story about Sewanee (Swan) Chester, her career as an audiobook narrator, and a time in her life when she is at a crossroads.
Initial Expectations (before beginning the book):
The cover is cartoonish, which tells me that this is a story with some humor. The blurb on the cover mentions that the novel is witty and clever, which, when mixed with humor, is my favorite kind of telling. I’ll be honest – the book description on the back is rather wordy and completely lost me, so I’m not sure exactly what this story is about or what to expect.
Actual Reading Experience:
I adored this story and the characters from page one and didn’t want the story to end. The writing is clever, with loads of witty banter and comedic moments instantly pulling me in. I loved the laugh-out-loud moments and the more poignant, heartbreaking ones. They all come together and tell a tale that is relatable and fascinating.
I also enjoyed the insider’s look at the audiobook production world. I never realized what all went into it and how demanding a career in this field actually is. Interestingly, there are awards and even a fan base for this line of work. The story seems to accurately describe what it’s like to be an audiobook narrator. Since the author is also an audiobook narrator, it’s like hearing her tell her profession to the reader.
The format of the book is also exciting. Each chapter is titled after a trope found in romance novels. I loved this nod to what makes a romance or a women’s fiction story. It is very clever and done in a way that fuels the compelling nature of the tale.
Swan’s relationships in this story are all uniquely complex. Swan and her grandmother Blah, Blah share an enviable closeness that becomes incredibly poignant as the story unfolds. She is close to her parents, but there are many issues with their relationships that tell a tale of a past that has shaped and molded the family they are now. And Swan and Nick… what can I say to do this pair justice? They develop a relationship crafted from mutual respect and open hearts.
Swan started out as an actress. After an accident that left her with an eye patch and a shoulder that doesn’t work as it’s supposed to, she became an audiobook narrator –highly regarded in the industry. She is working to overcome the tragedy that changed the course of her life, but it has not been an easy path. All the support characters are described in terms of who they are in Swan’s world, and I loved this incredible focus.
Narration & Pacing:
The story is told using a combination of third-person focused narration through Swan’s perspective and epistolary format (a story told through letters – currently, email and text also fall under this device). I thought the epistolary sections worked exceptionally well, as they told me so much in a clever and pithy manner that helped to keep the pace relatively fast.
Thank You for Listening is set in the audiobook production world. In this story, Swan lives in Los Angeles, attends a convention in Las Vegas, and takes a trip to Italy. However, the locale is not a significant part of the story. The Los Angeles setting does add to the character development of Swan, but beyond that, the places are largely irrelevant.
To Read or Not to Read:
If you love a story that is witty and clever and want that happily ever after, Thank You for Listening is the book you are looking for.