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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (949 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Kaye Gibbons Narrator: Kaye Gibbons Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 1995 ISBN: 9780743546034
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The bestselling author of Charms for the Easy Life reads "her best novel since Ellen Foster."

Kaye Gibbons' award-winning novels of Southern family life have won rave reviews coast to coast. Now, she tells the "story of family dislocation and crisis in restrained prose of unflinching clarity, with a honing eye for the small domestic details that conjure a time, place and emotional atmosphere." (Publishers Weekly)

To the people of Bend of the River Road, Maggie Barnes is "the Barnes woman with all the problems." To her family, she is the unpredictable wife, elusive mother, and adored daughter-in-law, and to her maid, Pearl, she is the mistress who must be cared for like a child.

Between the suicidal lows and delirious highs, young Hattie Barnes struggles to find a place in her mother's heart. She observes her mother's vain attempts at normalcy, and then watches as she is driven off to the hospital psychiatric ward. Only later will Hattie discover the deep-seated hopes and fears of the woman she loves unconditionally, and her inevitable connection to her family's past.

In heartfelt and potent prose, through Hattie's hushed voice, Sights Unseen tells the story of a troubled relationship and the courage it takes to see it through. Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A rich stew of years...Ms. Gibbons’ last novel, Charms for the Easy Life, found the large audience her work deserves, but I like this book even better. It is more intense, more vibrant, both richer and stranger.”

    New York Times Book  Review

  • “Engaging...delicately crafted...Kaye Gibbons writes memoirs of other people’s lives, fictional people so articulate, so individual that they seem quite real.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “A haunting story that begs to be read in one sitting...Readers will be thoroughly in thrall to her clear, true voice and to the poignant story she tells.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Gibbons writes seamless and resonant novels...This is a novel that deserves unwavering attention from start to finish, like a symphony or a sunset.” 

    Booklist

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laura Lee | 2/15/2014

    " Hard read, very sad. Young girl with a mentally ill mother. Well written, good read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Hannah Katsman | 2/13/2014

    " Novel about a woman recalling her childhood with a depressive mother and a dysfunctional family. Poignant. Gibbons realistically describes the absence of a mother and the effect it had on the narrator. I love the way she describes the characters and their interactions. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Wendy | 1/16/2014

    " Another tough read about mentally ill parents. The relationship to the maid mom surrogate is not as clear as in The Help by Stockett. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lisa | 1/12/2014

    " Excellent look at the affect of bipolar disorder on a family. Well written, with memorable characters and wit "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Diana S | 1/4/2014

    " I have found a new favorite Author! Thanks Tessa! :D "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sally | 12/26/2013

    " I have enjoyed every Kaye Gibbons book I have read "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dana | 12/14/2013

    " Not her best, but who cares, I really really liked it. It's about a mother's battle manic depression. I will say it again.......read anything by Kaye Gibbons. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joyce | 12/13/2013

    " This is a story, told by a remarkably happy and successful woman, of her childhood growing up under the oppression of two tyrants. Mr. Barnes, her grandfather, is the patriarch of the family and has a "lord of the manor" feudal sense of superiority, entitlement and power. Maggie, her mother suffers with bi-polar mental illness and for most of the book her every thought is about herself. Her family's existence revolves around keeping her as sane or happy or at times just alive as possible. The children want a mother, as all children do, but have to make do with the love and care given by Pearl, their housekeeper. Yet they have money, which is a great aid to all things in life, intellect and books. This is a very accurate depiction of mental illness with a detailed and positive description of electroconvulsive therapy. Recommended to anyone wanting to know more about mental illness and some of the ways it can affect a family "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Wendy | 12/11/2013

    " After this book I have decided that Kaye Gibbons is indeed a favorite author of mine. Her writing grabs me and holds me thoroughly until the book is complete. Wish she was currently writing. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sara-Ellen | 11/24/2013

    " I think this is my favorite Kaye Gibbons novel. As a manic depressive herself, Kaye Gibbons nailed it in this book. I understand that she writes best when she is in a manic state-as difficult as that must be-I am so thankful for her voice. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Hue | 11/17/2013

    " A little gem. Fascinating read! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Donna | 10/31/2013

    " Sights Unseen is a story of unconditional love & a family's desperate search for normalcy in the middle of mental illness. All everyone wanted was a normal family life like everyone else had. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Suzanne Bullard | 10/31/2013

    " This novel reads like non-fiction. Very interesting but haunting. Hattie Barnes tells the story of her family coping with her mothers bi polar disorder. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rilla | 10/17/2013

    " I think I might be re-reading this one (memory? what's that?). I am stunned by it this time around. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sue | 10/3/2013

    " Kaye Gibbons portrays a family caught in the web of mental illness --in this case the mother suffers from bipolar disorder--with grace and poignancy. She is a truly gifted writer. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lucy | 9/2/2013

    " Love this author, all her stuff. This a fiction account of a manic depressive mother. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Heatherannwurtz | 8/18/2013

    " Compelling book about a girl growing up with a mother with untreated manic depression. I couldn't stop reading it but I also kept waiting for the story to start. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Beth Shields-Szostak | 8/9/2013

    " 1st edition, signed & inscribed by author "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Meg | 6/5/2013

    " This is the fourth Kaye Gibbons book that I have read and she never disappoints. Gibbons often writes about inter-generational Southern families and they always have insight and heart. This story, concerning a young girl's childhood growing up with a manic-depressive mother, is no exception. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Melissa | 5/9/2013

    " My favorite Kaye Gibbons book...very poignant and sweet and sad all in one. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jinjer | 2/20/2013

    " Couldn't put this book down. Such wonderful characters and a very moving story. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jules | 1/7/2013

    " Not the fluffiest of plane reading, but an absorbing, intimate look at a mother's mental illness and the emotional and practical impact it had on her children. Felt more like reading a memoir than a novel. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sara-ellen | 4/29/2012

    " My favorite Kay Gibbons book. The struggle with manic depression was riveting and I thought so much about what my family must have suffered through with me. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mikaela | 12/26/2011

    " A story about a young girl dealing with her manic-depressive mother. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Meg | 11/30/2011

    " Really enjoyed this. Super fast and fulfilling read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Katie | 10/16/2011

    " I read the original edition; the later edition had more added to the story. humorous and touching story of a family in which the mother is manic depressive and in and out of institutions. told through the eyes of the 12 yr old daugther. set in North Carolina in the 50s and 60s. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kaitrece | 9/3/2011

    " An okay book. Definitely not her best book though. I like the author and this was my second or third read of hers. I'll give it a passive recommendation. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Marilynn | 7/14/2011

    " Interestingly depressing story of a wife and mother in the South who is mentally ill as seen through the eyes of her daughter and her memories of being a child. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Donna | 1/2/2011

    " Sights Unseen is a story of unconditional love & a family's desperate search for normalcy in the middle of mental illness. All everyone wanted was a normal family life like everyone else had. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Wendy | 11/28/2010

    " After this book I have decided that Kaye Gibbons is indeed a favorite author of mine. Her writing grabs me and holds me thoroughly until the book is complete. Wish she was currently writing. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mominisrael | 11/3/2010

    " Novel about a woman recalling her childhood with a depressive mother and a dysfunctional family. Poignant. Gibbons realistically describes the absence of a mother and the effect it had on the narrator. I love the way she describes the characters and their interactions. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Juliet | 10/22/2010

    " I had a tough time putting this little book down even though nothing much happens in it. The author does such a good job of developing characters that are authentic that you just keep reading, hoping that they will find some happiness and sanity in the end. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Leslie | 10/20/2010

    " Reads like a memoir. Woman remembers her childhood with manic-depressive mother. Fortunately it is short, because it is painful and very real, going by my experience. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cassie | 8/8/2010

    " Easy read. But the entire book felt like an introduction to me. I kept waiting for it to progress to plot, etc. Odd little story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Pam | 5/31/2010

    " An engaging book about young Hattie and her 12 year wait for her mother to come to her senses. The effects of bipolar disorder on the entire family are the real story. But I love the way Kaye Gibbons writes and I have enjoyed almost all of her books. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sandy | 4/21/2010

    " Mental illness (bipolar)from the inside out. A child of the mother who is yanked from one mental extreme to another narrates. The author struck a fine balance with a delicate use of (with frequently indelicate) words and emotion and accomplished an insightful communication with the reader. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sara-ellen | 3/31/2010

    " My favorite Kay Gibbons book. The struggle with manic depression was riveting and I thought so much about what my family must have suffered through with me. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Heatherannwurtz | 12/4/2009

    " Compelling book about a girl growing up with a mother with untreated manic depression. I couldn't stop reading it but I also kept waiting for the story to start. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Steph | 8/4/2009

    " A family, but mostly a daughter, trying to live with the mystery of the mother's bi-polar disease. Arresting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sheryl | 7/28/2009

    " Have I mentioned that I love everything that Kaye Gibbons publishes? "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Wendy | 7/26/2009

    " Another tough read about mentally ill parents. The relationship to the maid mom surrogate is not as clear as in The Help by Stockett. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mary | 7/12/2009

    " Here's one where I really wanted a rating halfway between "really liked it" and "it was amazing." Kaye Gibbons never lets me down. I have a manic depressive niece, single mom of three, and this one really hit close to home. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rilla | 4/8/2009

    " I think I might be re-reading this one (memory? what's that?). I am stunned by it this time around. "

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About the Author
KAYE GIBBONS is the author of eight novels, including Ellen Foster, A Virtuous Woman and Divining Women. With domestic sales of more than 4.2 million copies and numerous worldwide translations, she was designated "one of the most lyrical writers working today" by Entertainment Weekly. She lives in Raleigh, NC with her 3 daughters.