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The Opposite of Love, by Julie Buxbaum (Read by Ariadne Meyers)

The Opposite of Love
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What is the opposite of love? Just when she thinks she knows the answer, Emily Haxby discovers new possibilities. On the surface, it would seem that she has the perfect life-a boyfriend who is ready to propose, a promising career as a young attorney with a top law firm, friends and family who love her. Instead of enjoying her good fortune, she sabotages her chance of happiness by "breaking" her relationships with her boyfriend and her employer, and she distances herself from her family. When her beloved Grandpa Jack begins to deteriorate from Alzheimer's she reevaluates her life's direction and tries to put the broken pieces back together.

Perhaps that sounds like a ho-hum story, but the simplicity of the plot belies the deep, rich beauty of this audio drama. Buxbuam's prose pulsates with vivid and evocative descriptions of everyday situations, characters and emotions. She relates the moment of Emily's mother's death as "quiet -- beautiful -- like the end of a symphony, before the applause." When an esteemed, successful 80-year-old woman answers Emily's questions about growing up with an unexpected "Most of us are making it up as we go along," Emily (and the listener) are reassured that it's okay not to have all the answers. Buxbaum's dialogue is authentic and introspective as well as humorous and earthy without being crude or offensive. Emily deals with a wide range of issues in this book-the lingering effects of the death of a parent, fear of commitment, sexual harassment, office politics, aging, elder abuse, and family expectations.

It's remarkable that the author could spin such sad and serious subjects into such a happy, uplifting book, but she does it magnificently. Helping her to achieve her magic is a superb narrator who not only creates distinct voices for a diverse cast of male and female characters, but who is able to suggest emotions within those voices, going from outrage to wistful yearning while maintaining the proper accent. The audio book is so well narrated that it seems more like a radio play than a novel. It's hard to believe that all those voices are coming from one person.

Emily becomes a virtual best friend, likable and heroic but with flaws and weaknesses. The author's clever use of common quirks, the things we all do but probably never think about, like playing conversations and scenes in our heads before they occur make Emily a very realistic character. Her honesty is almost painful when she admits that the grief she feels because of the loss of her mother is not really about her mother, but about "the idea" of not having a mother. This is the type of audio book that entices the listener to "rewind" to the beginning and listen to all over, which is what I did as soon as I finished it.

Ruth Mormon

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