Book: The Middle of Somewhere (Unabridged)
Author: Clifford Henderson
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Producer: Dog Ear Audio
World history is literally filled with men and women taking to the Road to discover new worlds, new riches, and new versions of themselves. Grab any history book and flip back through the yellowed pages of time, and you’ll read stories about how:
- Ramses II roared along the highway from Memphis in a two horsepower chariot;
- Alexander the Great packed up the Root Beer and Twizzlers and headed off to India;
- Napoleon tossed the French Revolution into a backpack and went hostelling throughout most of continental Europe; and
- Alice Ramsey stuffed her two sisters, a girl friend, and twelve bags of Doritos into a Maxwell 30 for a 59-day road trip from New York to San Francisco way back in 1909.
While the urge “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before” has been around forever, few things are more uniquely American than the Road Trip.
Writers like Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac, John Steinbeck, Tom Wolfe, and Hunter S. Thompson have described for us their vast and varied experiences on the American road; and cinematic masterpieces such as Easy Rider, Vanishing Point, Five Easy Pieces, Two-Lane Blacktop, and Thelma and Louise take us along for the ride any time we need to get away.
So, whether she knows it or not, Clifford Henderson penned another chapter to this great American folk story when she turned out her first novel, The Middle of Somewhere, in 2009.
Meet the hip, young, and oh, so urban lesbian, Eadie T. Pratt. Her life in San Francisco has fallen apart, so she cuts all the ties and burns all the bridges when she packs up Pebbles, her ’66 T-Bird and departs on a self-described Springboard to a New Life Tour. Along the way, she picks up The Egg, a Burro trailer in Arizona, and sets her sights on the pantheon of Lesbian culture, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.
|Pebbles the '66 T-Bird|
Of course, everyone knows that the ’66 T-Bird is a dream car . . . for mechanics. Well, everyone except Eadie.
When Pebbles breaks down in front of a small town Baptist church in the panhandle of Texas, Eadie is stuck. No car, no money, and no hope. But, as luck would have it, two of Rauston’s finest show up and lend a helping hand. Heifer and Piggin are two traditionally built Texas women who welcome the enigmatic Eadie into their homes and their lives. Heifer and Piggin introduce Eadie to the local philosopher and mechanic, and help her find a way to pay for the costly repairs to Pebbles. In the process, Eadie meets Buddy Bud, a mentally challenged young man who immediately befriends her; Crash the exceptional lock-picking, pot buying teen, and the cute and quirky IT Goddess, Cadence.
While Eadie is still interested in getting the heck out of Rauston, she’s surprised to find that the small town and its eccentric characters have begun to grow on her. It surprises her even more when she realizes that the good financial fortune suddenly befalling Rauston Baptist Church and it’s hard-working parishioners is most likely a scam that could destroy her new friends and their beloved church. With the help of potential love interest, Cadence; Piggin and Heifer’s younger sister, Sweet Ginger; and Crash, Eadie puts everything on the line for her new friends and unexpected family.
So far this year, 46 reviews have been posted on The Rainbow Reader. A handful of the stories have been amazing, some have been pretty darn good, a few had bright spots, and one or two came close to completely missing the boat. There have been romances, mysteries, and thrillers, two anthologies, a couple of short stories and one autobiography. Along the way, Baxter Clare Trautman and Catherine M. Wilson classed up the joint by standing in as Guest Bloggers. Throughout all of this, one thing has remained the same – I read all the books.
What makes The Middle of Somewhere stand out is that I didn’t read it for this review – I listened to it. So, this review is about more than Clifford Henderson’s story, it also covers her narration, and the production of the audio book by Dog Ear Audio.
Starting with the story itself, Clifford Henderson has given her readers something a little different than the norm. Eadie is physically and emotionally edgy, and weighted down by negativity and bitterness. Piggin and Heifer are good, church-going women, but hiding devastating and demoralizing secrets. Rauston is small town America with big city blight.
The Middle of Somewhere has romance, mystery, and comedy, but isn’t really about any of those things. The message is about letting go of the toxic past, accepting that you deserve to be happy, and taking responsibility to move forward.
You can’t change the past, but you sure as heck can alter your future.
The story doesn’t need gratuitous sex, knee-slapping humor, or gut clenching evil, it succeeds because eccentric or not, the characters are real people with real problems, and lives we all recognize in some way, shape, or form. The characters are larger than life, but somehow believable; the story touches on both the raw and the beautiful; the humor is often ironic; and the soulful southern twang is warm and lyrical.
Anyone who has attempted it will tell you that narrating an audio book is an art in exhausting, humbling, and tedious form.
It’s related to acting and oral interpretation, but is neither. It’s a niche in the performing arts that blends some elements of both. A good narrator translates the written word to the spoken word in a way that is as consistent as possible with the intent of the author.
And, since Ms. Henderson both authored and narrated The Middle of Somewhere, we can check that last one off the list.
Author, Clifford Henderson, who has a voice, panache, and attitude made for performance, narrates this audio book. Her presentation is strong and clear, her characters come to life, and each individual has a distinct voice. The story is written in first person, so fellow outsider, Eadie T. Pratt, transports the reader into the tiny town of Rauston.
Had I read the story as well as listened to the audio book, I could voice an opinion as to whether or not the audio version enhanced or detracted from the written version. Still, I have a hard time believing Ms. Henderson’s interpretation of her own words didn’t add a vibrancy and clarity to the overall story.
So, even with the missing data, I’m calling this one a home run.
Lastly, I want to discuss a bit about the production value of the 8 disc CD set by the lovely staff of Dog Ear Audio. I can’t say I own any books on CD – the ones I’ve listened to have come from the Library. And, in all honesty, mainstream publishers like Penguin Group, Doubleday, and Random House have produced them.
With that in mind, I have no hesitation saying that the product quality of The Middle of Somewhere by Dog Ear Audio is top-notch. The sound is rich and clear, the CDs are consistent in quality, and the packaging is well designed and attractive. Ordering from their website (http://www.dogearaudio.com) was straightforward and easy, and order confirmation was immediate. An email was sent when the package was mailed, and the receipt came with a hand written thank you and [be still my heart] chocolate.
And if that isn’t enough, recipe cards for three of Piggin’s and Heifer’s mouthwatering dishes were included.
Clifford Henderson is a talented writer with a clear and distinct voice, and writes stories that are fresh and honest. She gives her readers memorable characters, smart dialogue, edgy interpretations, and an opportunity to laugh.
Dog Ear Audio has produced a flawless product, and clearly stamped their place on the audio publishing map. Besides Clifford Henderson, books by Kim Baldwin, Catherine Friend, KI Thompson, Radclyffe, and Robin Alexander are available for purchase. Additionally, Ms. Friend, Georgia Beers, and Rose Beecham have audio books in production for future release with Dog Ear Audio.
I’m giving the unabridged audio version of The Middle of Somewhere a 5.2 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale. The price runs about $30 US, but you get a solid story, impeccable narration, and quality production and distribution.