Needing an audiobook for a long, lonely drive from Iowa, wanting something to keep me awake, I looked at the teen collection in my library where I have found good books in the past. I choose The Canning Season by Polly Horvath based on the Chas Adams-like art work on the box. I think that I may have seen the title on recommended lists, but I knew nothing about it. Embracing the attitude of blind discovery, I checked it out.
I like some teen audiobooks because they have engaging characters and their stories move along at a quick pace. They often have irreverent viewpoints, satirizing adults who are bound by the conventions of the adult world. They also remind me how horrible and wonderful that it is to be young. For all these reasons, The Canning Season was a good choice.
The story starts in Pensacola, Florida. The central character is a girl named Ratchet, who has a "thing" on her left shoulder that she hides as commanded by her mother. Her single mother, who struggles to pay for their basement apartment and a few groceries, is really more grossed out by the "thing" than Ratchet herself, perhaps feeling guilt for the birth defect. In desperation, she sends her daughter up to Maine to spend a summer with her aged aunts Tilly and Penpen, who run a blueberry canning business on a remote estate. One aunt holds the shotgun and watches for bears while the other picks the wild blueberries in the woods.
The great aunts are twins who have spent years out in the woods in an old mansion with a telephone that accepts but does not make calls. The place is surrounded by bears, who may have eaten the servants years ago. Neither aunt has gotten a driver's license, but that does not stop "those queer Menuto women," who have a very old car that they take into town to get their mail once a week. They also have a pact to die together.
During the course of a long summer, they are joined by Harper, another abandoned teen, who longs for a good meal, an Internet connection, and a new swimsuit. Getting food onto the table and being civil to others are just two of the challenges the strange quartet face. As wickedly funny as The Canning Season is, it also becomes sweet near the end, as the four deal with aging, death, and commitment.
Read by actress Julie Dretzin, The Canning Season is a good audiobook for long, lonely drive.
Horvath, Polly. The Canning Season. Recorded Books, 2003. 5 CDs. ISBN 1402566069.