It is always such a different experience to hear a story read aloud, opposed to the experience of reading it silently and "hearing " it in your head. I have a feeling that this book has a more dramatic effect on me hearing it aloud. For me the book was shocking and raw. It it brutally honest portrayal of a woman dealing with an unmentionable act. At the very beginning of the story Helen crosses a big line in a haunting disturbing act that delivers that numbing gooey brain feeling. Yes, a kind of nauseating effect.
Joan Allen is reading this book and you really feel she is Helen and it telling "her own" story. She reads it in a way that you can feel the insides of the character. You feel her own shock, her own sorrow, and you feel her "insanity" that has been brought about through a life time of dealing with a mentally disturbed mother along with the insanity caused by the current deed and her resulting desperate actions.
The character's reaction to her deed is cold at times, panicky at times, sorrowful at times, and yet it is possible to relate to her. Joan Allen has the perfect tone to her voice as she voices the story. Alice Sebold does not let us down with electrifying passages. There are a lot of "gasp-worthy" places, and shocking climaxes that will drop your jaw.
The story dips into the past and back to the cold harsh present. This book, just like The Lovely Bones caused me a moment or two of thinking, "oh gosh, I don't think I can continue on with this." But The Almost Moon is very very enticing and intriguing. It wasn't long before I was looking forward to my commute to work to where I push the CD play button on the dash of my VW Beetle and hit the road. I also found myself sitting in the garage not going in the house after work because I wanted to hear more.
It is a very chilling story and it gives the reader motive to delve further into the story. It gives us a lot to wonder about, and there is always a lingering question in my mind, "will there be justice.?" and then "what is justice in this case?" The story at times is a paradox because Sebold keeps providing motives and "excuses for Helen's behavior while trying to make us like her when we know we CAN'T condone her actions. It is asking us whether extreme child abuse is a cause for a person to murder. Helen's post crime behavior is reckless, bizarre and doesn't always imply remorse and even shifts to making me feel that all she is thinking is "will I get caught?"
It is hard to feel sorry for Helen because her actions afterward seem so calculated, even to the point of steering the police to an innocent person. Sometimes when listening I have to ask myself if Helen has a conscience and will she be caught like any other criminal. And yet through some really horrific events in her childhood as I hear her inner child being destroyed by the abuse of her parents, I can't help but feel for this woman. But many times she is not feeling sorry, but she is feeling relief and freedom from the grips of the past.
I perceive the book to be a real page turner. I was surprised at the story. The writing is excellent and rich and translates beautifully to audio. I recommend this story for those who don't mind a little paradox and confusion and can handle a little disturbing, very well written story.