Both of these are Audible Originals for the month of November, which tend to be novellas, short radio plays, or would-be podcasts, etc.
This month I chose a Holiday novella by a writer I don’t know, but is a novelist, so I was curious what that would bring, and then a biographical piece by William Finnegan, the author of the memoir Barbarian Days, about growing up in surf culture, as well as being a respected journalist.
You Can Thank Me Later – Kelly Harms
This is a novella narrated by a chef in her mid 30s planning a Thanksgiving dinner for her older brothers and their wives. We find out soon enough that her brother Charlie is married to the narrator’s best friend, Annette, whom she met in college and who started dating the brother after his hapless role as “savior” to otherwise not completely held together women. Since then, they travel, they live a loving childfree life.
At this dinner, amid the drinks, the pregnancy of the other brother’s wife, the rewatching for the millionth time of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, it becomes apparent that Annette, who had previously been treated for cancer, was in the midst of a relapse, one with a dark prognosis.
We jump from there two years on. Annette has died, everyone is in mourning, and Charlie announces that he is bringing a new potential girlfriend to the dinner. Emily, when she shows up, turns out to be the very opposite of Annette, namely because she’s a divorced mother of two, and her kids have to join them after a snafu with a custody hand-off. The narrator begins to cultivate the the resentment and hurt feelings associated with her own grieving for her friend. That will take us through the rest of the novella.
The thing that stands out most from this short piece, especially in comparison to many of the previous Audible Originals I’ve read is that it’s an actual professionally written novella and not simply a teleplay — which have been spotty in previous months. It’s pretty good, ended up being more touching than I thought without being drippingly sentimental, just regular sentimental.
Climbing with Mollie – William Finnegan
This one is also very good, and has probably inspired me to seek out an audio version of the book he wrote about surfing. This book is about an arbitrary choice by the author and his daughter to try out a climbing gym, and how his daughter Mollie absolutely falls head over heels in love with the sport, and how the two of them becomes endearingly close as a result. Finnegan is a skilled writer who understands the questions his writing brings up and presents with extraordinary clarity the focus this story needs. He’s thought through his thoughts, and found the things he knows and the things he doesn’t know. What’s also clear about everything is how much he loves and respects his daughter and how proud of her she is. And she does sound amazingly skilled as a climber. There’s also a really funny and charming interview at the end where Finnegan interviews Mollie, now 8 years or so older, reflecting back on the same set of events we’ve been privy to.