Tag Archives: dive from clausen’s pier

SONGS WITHOUT WORDS by Ann Packer

I am back from BEA! It was a great time in NY. I had two fun days of walking the floor, learning about new books, meeting some authors, and catching up with book bloggers. I made it to half of the Book Blogger Convention on Friday, and particularly enjoyed a session on working with publishers. Best of all – I got to spend a lot of time with my BEA roomie, Nicole from Linus' Blanket. We seem to have an endless supply of book-related topics to discuss.

The books I am most excited about getting at BEA: the new Tom Perrotta book The Leftovers (I told him that if anyone could get me into dystopian fiction, it's him); Girls in White Dresses, which I heard author Jennifer Close read from on Thursday, and… if I dare admit this… the audiobook I picked up of the Sweet Valley Confidential ten-years-later novel, which is supposed to be pretty dumb but which I simply cannot wait to devour.

I picked up many others – I will include a fuller list when my boxes arrive from New York.

Packer I just finished Ann Packer's Songs Without Words. I read her The Dive from Clausen's Pier many years ago (pre-blogging), and picked up this one at Politics & Prose over Christmas. (Hi FTC! Yep, another book I paid good hard cash for.) It is billed as a story about two friends – Sarabeth and Liz – whose relationship is put to the test when Liz, who is used to being Sarabeth's caretaker, finds that she needs Sarabeth's support when her teenage daughter Lauren attempts suicide. Sarabeth, whose own mother took her life when Sarabeth was 16, finds herself unable to give Liz the support she needs, and their relationship is severely strained. 

Songs Without Words is really more of a chronicle of how Lauren's suicide attempt affects everyone in her family, as well as Sarabeth. Packer is an extremely detailed writer, and the book is full of the minutiae of Lauren's family's lives. I generally enjoy detailed stories, but Packer goes to an extreme here. Not that much actually happens in the book. Aside from Lauren's actions, I kept expecting drama to ensue in each chapter – something that would reward me for all of the careful reading – but it really didn't happen. Lauren slowly gets better, and Liz and Sarabeth slowly work their way toward reconciliation. There is a lot of depression in the book, and Packer does a good job of conveying the helpless meandering and defeat that often accompanies the condition. The book ends on a hopeful note, but again, there is no great payoff. 

I mostly listened to this book on audio, except for the last quarter or so, which I read. I did enjoy the process of reading the book. But I have to say that looking back now that I am done, I am not sure it was worth the effort of listening and reading. The payoff, as noted above, is just too small. 

The narrator on the audio version had an irritating habit of overannunciating words, like "kiTCH-hen", which was annoying after a while. I think she also reads pretty slowly, as I would listen for a good chunk of time and find that it had only covered a few pages. (I just discovered that she's a pretty popular audio narrator – Cassandra Campbell – who also narrated the audio version of The Help).

Overall, I can't really recommend Songs Without Words too strongly. I enjoyed the process of reading it but ultimately found it unsatisfying. Would love to hear any other opinions!