Nicholas & Micah Sparks, |
Three Weeks with My Brother
(Time Warner, 2004)
When I finished listening to Three Weeks with My Brother, an audiobook written by Nicholas Sparks with his brother Micah and read by Henry Leyva, the first thought that came to mind was "Wow! This is the best Sparks book I've run across!" Now, before you run out and get yourself a copy, you might want to read further to find out why I enjoyed this audiobook as much as I did, as well as why my opinion might cause you to skip this particular offering.
To begin with, Three Weeks with My Brother is actually a memoir, not a romance novel as you would normally expect from Nicholas Sparks. I, for one, am not a huge fan of the romance genre. In Sparks' defense, however, I find his writing much more accessible than most of the authors whose books share shelf space with his. In relation to this particular book, I am a huge fan of travel and exploring other cultures. With this audiobook, you will hear about an adventurous trip around the world the two brothers took together. Having also traveled to many of the spots they went to, I was able to relate to many of their experiences. I recognized many of the descriptions of various locations and enjoyed comparing my mental travelogue with their audio log.
If you enjoy travelogues, you might also connect with their journey and enjoy this book as much as I did overall. However, some serious travelers (both the passport variety as well as those who travel mentally with the help of books, magazines and television) will be turned off. Many of the descriptions are somewhat vague. Also, the brothers occasionally act a little immature and disrespectful of the cultures they are experiencing. You might be familiar with the term "Ugly American" in reference to the terrible reputation U.S. citizens have as travelers abroad. I have been an "ugly American" myself, but as I've grown older, I've worked on being a more conscientious visitor in foreign lands. Unfortunately, our reputation precedes us. I can recall on a trip to China where I unsuccessfully attempted to convince some Chinese ladies that I was indeed from the U.S., not the U.K., and that the "rude Americans" they were referring to were actually from Germany. In short, it pains me to see (or hear in this case) bad travel manners. Invariably, whether the culprits are from the U.S. or not, intolerable and insensitive behavior perpetuates the image of the "ugly American." The Sparks did us a disservice in more than one country on their tour.
While the brothers' three-week journey is the catalyst of the story, more time is spent on how the brothers grew up and their relationships with their parents, their sister and their own families. The writing is from Nicholas' point of view, which makes one wonder just how much Micah contributed. Be that as it may, I was completely captivated finding out just how poor the Sparks family was. I was surprised to hear about the path Nicholas took on his way to becoming a millionaire by 30. The dynamics between the various family members was also interesting. Nicholas came across as being a very anal individual. Micah was much more of a carefree spirit. Their sister had a joy for life that was completely opposite of their bitter and distant father. Their mother seemed almost unbelievable -- what a wonderful and saintly woman! Whenever she spouted one of her well-worn sayings in this 9.5 hour journey, I had to smile. Add in Nicholas's wife and five children and you have more complete "character development" than most novels. If you are a people watcher, this audiobook is a great way to experience some watching with your ears.
There are two sub-themes that continuously pop up throughout the book. Micah has lost his faith in God and Nicholas attempts to help him regain what he lost. At the same time, Micah is on a mission to force Nicholas to lighten up. For all the downs these two have experienced, life needs to be enjoyed. One shouldn't lose oneself in work or one day they will find out that life passed them by. Besides, you never know when your time is up. Depending upon your stomach for these sentiments, you might agree with them or you might be tempted to push the fast forward button when these subjects arise.
Three Weeks with My Brother is read by Henry Leyva, an actor known for off-Broadway productions as well as appearances on television and screen. He is an excellent reader; his voice flows very smoothly and he sounds like a professional speaker. Before you first hear Henry, though, Nicholas starts off with a long introduction on the first of eight CDs. While his speaking voice is nowhere near as polished as his writing voice, and despite Henry's superior reading skills, I think the audiobook would have been better served if Nicholas would have read the whole work. He would have made a closer connection with his listeners considering this is a memoir.
So the question comes down to whether or not the audiobook of Three Weeks is worth your entertainment dollar. It is. This is the best audiobook I've enjoyed so far this year. I love world travel. I also felt a connection with the authors in many respects as they laid out parts of their past for all to hear. I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions from laughter to grief. On the other hand, if you only equate Sparks with romance, do not care at all for anything outside U.S. borders (or, at the opposite extreme, get ticked off at bad travel manners), do not care for memoirs and, finally, wish to avoid having others imply how you should live your life on a religious or mental level, then obviously, this book is not for you!