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The Laments: A Novel Audiobook, by George Hagen Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: George Hagen Narrator: Richard Matthews, Simon Vance Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: March 2004 ISBN: 9781415904763
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (426 ratings) (rate this audio book)
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Meet the Laments—the affably dysfunctional globetrotting family at the center of George Hagen’s exuberant debut novel.

Howard is an engineer who dreams of irrigating the Sahara and lives by the motto “Laments move!” His wife Julia is a fiery spirit who must balance her husband’s oddly peripatetic nature with unexpected aspirations of her own. And Will is the “waif with a paper-thin heart” who is given to Howard and Julia in return for their own child who has been lost in a bizarre maternity ward mishap. As Will makes his way from infancy to manhood in a family that careens from continent to continent, one wonders where the Laments will ever belong.

In Bahrain, Howard takes a job with an oil company and young Will makes his first friend. But in short order he is wrenched off to another land, his mother’s complicated friendship with the American siren Trixie Howitzer causing the family to bolt. In Northern Rhodesia, during its last days as a white colony, the twin enfants terribles Marcus and Julius are born, and Will falls for the gardener’s daughter, a girl so vain that she admires her image in the lid of a biscuit tin. But soon the family’s life is upturned again, thie time by their neighbor Major Buck Quinn, with his suburban tirades against black self-rule. Envisioning a more civilized life on “the sceptered isle,” the Laments board an ocean liner bound for England. Alas, poor Will is greeted by the tribal ferocity of his schoolmates and a society fixated on the Blitz. No sooner has he succumbed to British pop culture in the guise of mop-top Sally Byrd and her stacks of 45s, than the Laments uproot themselves once again, and it’s off to New Jersey, where life deals crisis and opportunity in equal measure.

Undeniably eccentric, the Laments are also universal. Every family moves on in life. Children grow up, things are left behind; there is always something to lament. Through the Lament’s restlessness, responses to adversity, and especially their unwieldy love for one another, George Hagen gives us a portrait of every family that is funny, tragic, and improbably true.

From the Hardcover edition. Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • The Laments is a fine novel, about family, migration, identity, and the struggle to find and hold on to it. It is also hugely entertaining and very, very funny. Roddy Doyle, author of The Barrytown Trilogy
  • A vital international journey through the vicissitudes of family life. This story, centering on the timeless theme of a child swapped at birth, is immensely readable, funny, and touching—a complete joy. Elizabeth Strout, author of Amy and Isabelle
  • “George Hagen’s highly entertaining debut novel features an irresistibly headstrong family, a global sweep, and not only a sense of loss and displacement that’s perfectly in tune with the world we live in but also a full measure of resilient humanity. Gary Shteyngart, author of The Russian Debutante’s Handbook

Listener Reviews

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  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ruth | 2/18/2014

    " This book was delightful... quirky, unpredictable, tragic and very funny. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Patty | 2/17/2014

    " For a long time I didn't think I liked this book. It seemed too light, no real substance. I kept waiting for some major, tragic event to occur. (That shows what kind of books I've been reading lately!) Eventually the characters and the story grew on me, especially the main character, Will, who is a quiet, serious boy who was switched at birth and doesn't know it. Throughout the book the Lament family travels, always in search of a fresh start, a better job, and a better life. Each new home brings its own challenges, and the mother is convinced that something is lost every time they move. Eventually I realized that this book wasn't the light, nothing story I had first thought it was (It does have its share of tragedy). By the end I was really enjoying it, and I was sad when it ended. It was a pretty easy read. I'd recommend it as a break between heavier books. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mandy | 2/16/2014

    " if you are a wandering gypsy who has moved a lot, you may relate to this book and the strange urge to keep moving on to see what else is out there. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tony | 2/8/2014

    " More of a 3 1/2 star review, but I don't think those are permitted on this site. It's a very well written novel, but I couldn't get over a plot point in the beginning of the book. I don't think it would have been treated as lightly as it was in the book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lori | 1/9/2014

    " I really enjoyed this book - the first time I listened to it on audio CD, but this time I read it for June's book club. It was one of those books that didn't get bogged down in itself although it easily could have. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Anne | 1/8/2014

    " I'm so very glad I gave this book a second chance. It's incredibly serious and hilarious at the same time. Well worth the time I spent reading it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Shannamay | 1/8/2014

    " I read this cover to cover in one sitting - it was absolutely fantastic! It has been a while since I feel in love with a novel instantly, but this was one. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. I would recommend this book to everyone. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Denise | 12/14/2013

    " This book treats the many-foibled characters with unblinking clarity mixed with tenderness and humor. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Nancy | 12/4/2013

    " too much predictable tragedy. Reads like a Hallmark movie gone bad. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Denise | 11/13/2013

    " ineffectual writing, with tragic events out of nowhere... just didn't move me at all "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kris | 11/13/2013

    " Funny novel. Written in an ironic/humorous vein. A story about a chap who was switched at birth and what he has to overcome in his life. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kathy | 10/17/2013

    " Listened to this Audio Book while working in the kitchen...and eating meals. Very pleasant. Nothing intellectual about the book...but, as I said ...a pleasant listen. This was a break from the more serious books that I have been listening to and reading. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Joy | 3/16/2013

    " Such an interesting, entertaining, heart-breaking book about a family that travels...reminded me of my siter & her husband a bit. Loved every silly bit of this book/ "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laura | 11/22/2012

    " I guess I should have known just by the title that this was going to be a sad book. Still, even though I enjoy happy endings, I really liked this book and would recommend it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Leslie | 9/25/2011

    " Very enjoyable. The humor was delightful. The family situations were fun yet insightful. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bybee | 12/28/2010

    " If you liked the novels The World According to Garp and The Lonely Polygamist, you'll enjoy this one. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Andrea | 7/29/2010

    " great read. South African family keeps moving to find happiness. First son is "replacement" for one lost to John Irving-like bizarre accident. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kay | 1/20/2010

    " Will Lament is secretly adopted by Howard and Julia when their baby dies. This is a family who move a lot in search of happiness. Trying to find his place in the world, his family and his parents' affection Will is painfully funny and sad. Loved it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Elizabeth | 3/15/2009

    " Don't know. Who recommended this but the library didn't have it so I actually bought it. I. Will be looking for the author's other books. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jana | 4/12/2008

    " Mildly amusing to begin with, but too silly to stick with. And when I looked at other reviews people said it was sad along with silly. So bye-bye, back to library. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Recynd | 9/8/2007

    " Another one of those quiet sorts of stories; I liked it quite a bit, though. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Elizabeth | 6/27/2007

    " Some portions of this book were laugh-out-loud humerous and others cry-your-heart-out sad - fictional lives that were compellingly real. For a first book, this was great! I look forward to reading more from George Hagen. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Melissa | 10/3/2006

    " A wonderful portrait of an intelligent, slightly nomadic family. I wouldn't call it a light, happy read, but it isn't overly heavy either and it's a quick read. I loved the characters, especially the kids. It may not be a perfectly written novel, but I was very happy I took the time to read it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ellanor | 8/20/2006

    " Story of a child switched at birth and consequences of adoption by hugely eccentric family who travel from England to Africa back to England and onto America, humor not unlike Zaddie Smith "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Christina | 9/28/2004

    " It started a bit slow but I loved how it all came together. One of those books where you find yourself windering how he is doing now... "

About the Author

George Hagen is the author of two novels for adults: The Laments, a Washington Post bestseller and recipient of the William Saroyan International Prize for writing, and Tom Bedlam. George had lived on three continents by the time he was twelve. The father of three children, he now lives in Brooklyn, New York. Gabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle is his first book for children.

About the Narrators

Kate Reading is an Audie Award–winning narrator and has received dozens of Earphones Awards. She has been named by AudioFile magazine as a “Voice of the Century,” as well as the Best Voice in Science Fiction & Fantasy in 2008 and 2009 and Best Voice in Biography & Culture in 2010. She is also a theater actor in the Washington, DC, area and has been a member of the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company since 1987. Her work onstage has been recognized by the Helen Hayes Awards Society, among others.

Simon Vance (a.k.a. Robert Whitfield) is an award-winning actor and narrator. He has earned more than fifty Earphones Awards and won the prestigious Audie Award for best narration thirteen times. He was named Booklist’s very first Voice of Choice in 2008 and has been named an AudioFile Golden Voice as well as an AudioFile Best Voice of 2009. He has narrated more than eight hundred audiobooks over almost thirty years, beginning when he was a radio newsreader for the BBC in London. He is also an actor who has appeared on both stage and television.