Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Beauty - Audiobook Review

Title: Beauty
Author: Frederick G. Dillen
Narrator: Chris Andrew Ciulla
Unabridged Length: 7 h, 33 m
Published by Blackstone Audio, 2014
Genres: Adult Fiction, Literary

From the Publisher
As a corporate "undertaker" for a mergers and acquisitions firm in New York, Carol MacLean travels from factory to factory, firing blue-collar workers who remind her of her father and the kids she grew up with. The payoff is huge: If Carol works hard enough, her boss has promised to make her CEO of one of the firm's holdings. Just when it seems like her dream might come true, on a trip that takes her away from New York to a desperate fishing town in coastal Massachusetts, Carol gets a call from the office: "You're fired."

My Review:
This is the story of Carol MacLean, a New York based undertaker for the private equity firm Baxter Blume. The firm buys distressed industrial facilities on the cheap, shuts them down and disposes of the property. Carol’s job is to go to newly acquired facilities and do the dirty work; securing property, laying off the workforce, and selling the equipment. She is very good at it, but empathizes with the workers whose livelihoods are being trampled by her firm. She is also over 6’ tall, single, middle age, with red hair and referred to as “the beast” by her peers at Baxter Blume.

Baxter Blume promised her that she’d get her own company to run once she finished her last burial in Massachusetts; a fish processing facility. Carol really wants to run something at this point in her life, instead of shut it down. A few things happen. (1)The position she wanted went to a younger, less experienced, and more physically attractive woman who was close to one of the principals. (2)She receives a phone call telling her she will be fired, as soon as she finishes the fish processing plant burial. Her firm decided they could cut her and let her assistant do the same job and save a lot of money. (3)She meets Ezekiel “Easy” Parsons, a local knowledgeable and well respected fisherman.

If the fish processing plant dies, so does the town and all of the good factory jobs. She changes tactics and decides to buy the plant, with the help of the plant workers, area fishermen and townspeople. From there, it is working folks led by Carol and Easy, determined to save their town and their way of life from the well-connected corporate raiders and real estate developers. There is a touch of romance and the finale has “big screen – final scene” written all over it.

Frederick Dillen crafted a feel-good story that translates well into the audiobook format. I was pleasantly surprised with Chris Ciulla’s voicing of Carol MacLean, the main character. He softens the tone of his voice without dropping the volume and pulls off a nice feminine voice for Carol. She is pretty neutrally accented, which is good since all we really know about her is she works in New York and travels all over.

Ciulla gives fisherman Easy Parsons an authentic gritty coastal Massachusetts accent that reeks of salt and fish. It makes Easy a memorable character. His other characters were easily distinguishable and the chosen accents were appropriate for the story. I really like his work on the third person narration as his voice fully embraces the coastal story feel and keeps it moving along, even when the writing sometimes bogs down.

This is a book I never would have read. I’m generally not into literary fiction, and the title was not catchy at all. That said, I wanted to listen to the narration work of Chris Ciulla. He approached us about a couple of titles he’d recently performed and wanted listed in our reviewer program at Audiobook Jukebox. By coincidence, we had just received both titles from Blackstone. I read the blurb for Beauty and could relate to the main character as she had similarities with my life experience in corporate America.

Chris Ciulla is relatively new to audiobookland, having 11 titles listed on Audible over the last year or so. I think he has the chops to do really well in this medium. I enjoyed Beauty and will readily listen to other work he does. I hope others will give his work a listen.  

A review copy of Beauty was provided by Blackstone Audio through the Solid Gold Reviewer program of Audiobook Jukebox.

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