Title: Tender Mercies
Series: The Men of Lancaster County: Book Two
Author: Eli Easton
Narrator: Will Tulin
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Run Time: 8 hours and 28 minutes
At a Glance: There were so many moments in Eli Easton’s Tender Mercies that stand out when reading this novel, and I felt that most of those were done justice by Mr. Tulin’s adept handling of the more emotional highpoints.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Eddie Graber’s dream of a sanctuary for rescued farm animals was about to come true when his partner backed out at the last minute. Now Eddie risks losing the 25-acre property in Lancaster County – and all the hopes he held for it – before the project even gets off the ground. He needs help, he needs money, but most importantly, he needs to rediscover the belief in a higher purpose that brought him here in the first place.
Samuel Miller worked hard to fit into his Amish community despite his clubfoot. But when his father learns Samuel is gay, he is whipped and shunned. With just a few hundred dollars to his name, Samuel responds to an ad for a farmhand and finds himself employed by a city guy who has strange ideas about animals, no clue how to run his small farm, and a gentle heart.
Samuel isn’t the only lost soul to serendipitously find his way to Meadow Lake Farm. There’s Fred and Ginger, two cows who’d been living in a garage, a gang of sheep, and a little black pig named Benny who might be the key to life, love, money – and even a happily ever after for two castoffs.
Review: Normally I would give both a short story and audio review, but with this novel I’ve decided to combine those as most of my critique of the audio actually stems from the story itself. Will Tulin is very adept at varying his tone and modulation to indicate different characters in this audio rendition. I love when I am surprised by a voice narrator, and, in this case, it was Mr. Tulin’s choice to make the city man, Eddie Graber, who is described as smaller in stature, the deeper voice and allowing for Samuel’s age (nineteen) to be conveyed in his softer voice despite his being a much larger man. It also really gave Samuel that innocent, shy persona that the author wrote him as. In my opinion, Eddie, Samuel, and Eddie’s friend Devon were all well done by Mr. Tulin. However, Samuel’s father and, occasionally Samuel himself, felt off to me when it came to establishing their regional accents.
Having grown up with Amish neighbors, I can tell you that theirs is a unique cadence and language. Often they speak Pennsylvania Dutch—a German dialect—and it gives their English an almost sing-song feel at times. Realizing that the author also lives in Amish country, I definitely got hints of this in her writing, but Mr. Tulin wasn’t able to maintain that particular quality when it came to narrating Samuel or his father. I found that unfortunate, as part of Samuel’s charm in this novel was his different way of thinking and speaking. I felt there were some lovely moments when the narrator got Samuel’s naivete spot on, and then it would get lost, his voice often sounding more like the tone used in the prose narration. Because Eddie’s voice was noticeably deeper, that rarely happened with him.
Also, I’m not sure if it was the actual recording from audible that seemed a bit off or the narrator’s choice, but it was very noticeable when Mr. Tulin started fresh in his storytelling. His voice would suddenly get stronger mid-chapter and really click in terms of how I thought the pacing and modulation of his tone should be. As the text progressed, however, Mr. Tulin would begin to struggle with shading and nuancing his pitch so any indications of sarcasm, anger, or humor got lost, and those were definitely evident in the author’s writing. After a while I swear I could tell when the narrator was simply getting tired and needed a break, and sure enough, a few lines later there would be this renewed energy and stronger emotional intent to his voicing.
There were so many moments in Eli Easton’s Tender Mercies that stand out when reading this novel, and I felt that most of those were done justice by Mr. Tulin’s adept handling of the more emotional highpoints. Please don’t get me wrong; while I felt a bit of the story’s urgency (e.g. Eddie’s concern over finances and having to potentially sell the farm) and the fear and then decided relief at coming out and being accepted (e.g. Samuel’s confession to Eddie that he was gay), they were not always given the appropriate intensity in Mr. Tulin’s delivery. I did enjoy the intimate interactions between Eddie and Samuel and their distinctly different voices. In the end, this was a good narration of a sweet romance, and I would not hesitate to pick up another audio performance by Will Tulin in the future.
You can buy Tender Mercies here:
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