Release date: 2 August 2022
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Book boxes: None yet—if this isn’t in one, I’ll be shocked.
Synopsis: 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.
Though derivative and quite predictable for me, Whelan’s sophomore novel, Thank You for Listening delivers great humor and perfect dialogue to complement exceptional characters. I don’t think I’ve read a contemporary novel that entertained me with character interaction quite like this for a long time. I listened this partly while doing yard work, and I laughed so hard at some parts that I had to stop operating the lawn mower until I calmed down enough.
“Sewanee hadn’t known then how quickly a dream could become a thing that mocked you.”
Sewanee Chester, a former romance novel audio book narrator, and film star, has a terrible accident before the book begins that leaves her basically (and for the lack of a better term for how Hollywood treats performers of certain body types) damaged goods. To keep her toe in the water of performing arts, she turns to audiobook narrating and gets her start in romance novels, which bug her to no end but must be read, according to this book, in order to break into the audiobook market and make it big. She does, and this book follows her plight while she navigates one more go at romance novels in order to be able to make bank and provide support for her ailing grandmother, whose dementia has progressed rapidly lately and now requires her to have more intense, more expensive care at the facility where she has grown comfortable.
Most ardently, I loved the characters and dialogue in this book. 1,000 stars for those. The old people are awesome in it as well, much like an earlier read on my list this year, Flying Solo. Like Holmes, Whelan’s treatment of seniors is nothing less than stellar, and these folks take the spotlight any time they are on the page. I have a soft spot for funny old people who have lost their filter and get away with saying and doing pretty much anything because they’ve put up with the world’s crap long enough and they deserve to have one less thing to worry about. The one drawback to Whelan’s narrative is that the stories, though humorous in the telling, are breathtakingly sorrowful in overall arc.
Additionally, the fact of how spot on this book is about all the bookish/audiobookish stuff is absolutely amazing. I could not believe how relatable all of the scenarios were for conventions (even though I’ve only been to and presented at academic ones) and romance/book/audiobook/general bookish fans. I definitely have a preferred voice style and can relate to the references about sultry man voices in the romance book world.
The romance in this book is not quite as spicy—I’d give it around 2 peppers. Sewanee and her love interest have incredible chemistry and their conversation is witty and intelligent, a true feat in romance. I enjoyed the banter and smirked at the snark.
Overall, TYFL is well written while still presenting a generic love story. If one put a plain white dust jacket over the cover and handed it to a well-versed romance reader, the book would read like any other, such as an Emily Henry or the like, hence the lower rating despite the gushing over the characters and the dialogue. I could also have done without the obligatory social and political commentary that I can’t stand but nevertheless expect from most contemporary novels.
As always, Whelan’s voice lends a certain quality to the telling of the story and nothing less than 5 stars. Fantastic.
My thanks to libro.fm and HarperCollins via Avon Books for the ALC, for which I give my own, honest opinion.