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Extended Audio Sample The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay Audiobook, by Beverly Jensen Click for printable size audiobook cover
3.69 out of 53.69 out of 53.69 out of 53.69 out of 53.69 out of 5 3.69 (35 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Beverly Jensen Narrator: Bernadette Dunne Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: November 2010 ISBN: 9781455197927
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This is a tale of two sisters over seventy years that recovers the vibrant and unforgettable voice of Beverly Jensen, whom Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize–winning American novelist, said has “rewritten the literary history of Maine.”

In 1916, Idella and Avis Hillock live on the edge of a chilly bluff in New Brunswick, Canada; a hardscrabble world of potato farms, rough men, hard work, and baffling beauty. From “Gone,” the heartbreaking account of the crisis that changed their lives forever, to the darkly comic “Wake,” which follows the grown siblings’ catastrophic efforts to escort the body of their father “Wild Bill” Hillock to his funeral, these stories of Idella and Avis offer a compelling and wry vision of two remarkable women. The vivid characters include Idella’s philandering husband, her bewilderingly difficult mother-in-law, and Avis, whose serial romantic disasters never quell her irrepressible spirit. Jensen’s work evokes a time gone by and reads like an instant American classic.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Every now and then—maybe two or three times in a decade—a book comes along that’s so good you want to buttonhole strangers on the street, show it to them, and say: ‘Read this! It will fill you up and make you glad you’re alive!’ The late Beverly Jensen’s The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay is exactly that kind of book. It roars from hilarity to horror to heartbreak, sometimes in the space of ten or twenty pages, then back again to hilarity. It’s profane, loving, hardnosed, and completely beautiful. If you ever loved The Memory Keeper’s Daughter or The Secret Life of Bees, you have been waiting for this book and just didn’t know it. Idella and Avis, the sisters from Hardscrabble Bay, stole my heart. They’ll steal yours, as well. Read this book. And buy a copy for your best friend, because you’ll want to keep yours.”

    Stephen King 

  • “The story of these two sisters, Idella and Avis, travels from Canada to New England, but mostly it travels through their lives and hearts, and it will travel through your heart, as well.”

    Elizabeth Strout, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Olive Kitteridge

  • “An original voice, sharp witted and big hearted, as if a rambunctious and deeply troubled family out of William Faulkner’s Mississippi had been tempered instead by the snowy reaches of the North.”

    Poets & Writers

  • “Bernadette Dunne has a pleasantly hoarse, easygoing voice that seems to grow increasingly textured and wiser as the novel progresses and the sisters age. Her clear emotional tones amplify the scenes as she travels with Idella and Avis from tragic childhoods through humdrum adulthoods to comic endings. Without awkward exaggeration, she creates a unique personality for each character, male and female.”

    Publishers Weekly audio review

  • “The harsh life and times of the sisters is presented in sharp detail through their own eyes, with issues of class and gender revealed along the way. From their rocky beginnings through their father's death and their own old age in 1986, the sisters' tale remains compelling.”

    Library Journal

  • “Dunne’s reading captures all the poignant moments in the story. She does a fantastic creation of both French and Danish accents…Dunne’s reading expresses the happiness and sadness that govern the lives of the sisters, capturing all the emotions whether humorous or heartbreaking. Jensen has a true gift for describing the beautiful scenery in the Northeast where the story is set.”

    SoundCommentary.com

  • “Published posthumously, Jensen’s debut is a rich cycle-of-life narrative…Straightforward yet lyric prose and an eye for the crucial detail bring the Hillocks’ world vividly to life.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • Selected for the July 2010 Indie Next List

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Susan | 2/12/2014

    " Not my usual choice of books, but found it on display at the library and enjoyed it. Interesting format and character development. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nminnig | 2/5/2014

    " Book club selection - interesting characters "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Charline | 2/3/2014

    " I really enjoyed this book. This really hits home. I was born near Boston and grew in New Brunswick, this could be the story of a lot of my ancestors, my grandparents and my parents. It was like reading stories of my relatives. This Novel was funny, sad, loving.... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nikki | 1/31/2014

    " Interesting enough to keep my attention, but just felt lukewarm about it after reading! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kathryn | 1/17/2014

    " One and a half really. I'm so sorry when my opinion doesn't seem to follow the consensus. This book was painfully slow and uninteresting for me. I had considered not finishing it, but I kept thinking it was going to go from bland to interesting so I kept reading. By the time I realized it wasn't going to get any better, I was so close to the end, I decided to finish. There were characters and moments that I enjoyed, but then they were never expanded. It just didn't work for me. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Sara | 1/14/2014

    " Hmmmmmm well the 1st chapter and the last chapter were the most interesting for me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Karen | 1/13/2014

    " It's a real loss that Beverly Jensen is no longer with us. This was and is an original voice in fiction: sharp, wry, tragic and comic. This collection of short stories gives heart and soul in generous measure. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Valerie | 1/2/2014

    " What a wonderful story! I am sorry that the author died because hers was a wonderful and gifted story-telling voice. My dad was a Canadian immigrant, not from NB or such subsistance circumstance so the story was even more interesting to me. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Nancy | 10/11/2013

    " A lovely collection of novellas that twine together to tell the story of the Hillock sister Idella and Avis. The joy is bittersweet though, as the collection was published after Jensen's untimely death. I listened to the audio version, and the reader captured the timbre of the story beautifully. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bonnie | 9/27/2013

    " The first chapter is rip your heart out sad but the writing is so good I can't stop reading it. Excellent story so far. I highly recommend this book that was handed to me by a friend. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mum | 9/22/2013

    " One of those "haven't they added half stars yet" reviews. I really liked it except for the persistent use of "the" swear word. So redundant and not necessary, we got it already. I don't even think my dad used it THAT much. Also, I couldn't really tell if she was writing about her family or not..... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Karen | 8/22/2013

    " This is a wonderfully entertaining tale of life in 1916 and how hard one had to work to sustain it. It's also the story of relationships and family and tragedy--just a great read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Janelle | 5/19/2013

    " This was an easy read and I enjoyed the book. It follows a pair of sisters through their entire lives. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Irene | 3/31/2013

    " I don't know if it was the way the book was narrated or the book itself but I just could not get interested in any of the characters. I listened to more than half the book and then gave up on it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sandra | 1/26/2013

    " Liked this read alot. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dolores | 1/3/2013

    " Loved this historical fiction set in Canada and Maine!!! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Judy | 12/18/2012

    " I fell in love with these sisters but was sorry that this novel wasn't really finished. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jane | 10/8/2012

    " I enjoyed this collection of short stories about two sisters who start out in Canada and end up in Maine. I think it really captures their era. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 anna | 9/7/2012

    " A good book to listen to on tape. First few chapters are rough but gets better. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Susan Willingham | 8/8/2012

    " Absolutely amazing book. And the first book for the author before she passed away. I was mesmerized by the setting and the characters. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cindy | 2/12/2012

    " Spanning 70-some years, this is the story of two sisters who did lead 'hardscrabble', which I take to mean difficult, sometimes barren, lives. Though it is at times choppy, or takes a bit of a pointless turn, overall the characters were interesting and the story engaging. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sue Sharp | 11/18/2011

    " Good read, liked the way it takes you through their lives, hitting on highlights both good and bad. Interesting portrayal of life in New Brunswick 1916 - late 1920's, then follows the sisters' lives in different places. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Chris | 9/7/2011

    " Born bleak and stayed bleak but spunky. Lots of rich detail sometimes and then decades were skipped leaving you to wonder how the characters got to the next phase of the story. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jen | 8/4/2011

    " Very ok. I skimmed the last several chapters. It started off a lot better than what I thought the rest of the book was and the language was BAD. Really had several swear words per page...hard to have to skip past all of those words. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Angela | 5/29/2011

    " Great book - i loved how she used people in her life as characters - too bad there won't be anything more by this author - she died of cancer:( "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Elizabeth | 5/10/2011

    " There's some good bits here but a bit too much tedious slogging and a feeling that I was too old for this one made me ultimately put this aside half way through. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lisa | 4/27/2011

    " Gave a great perspective on life in New Brunswick during that period of time. Enjoyed it. Could have been more enthusiastic about the actual writing. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Marie | 4/22/2011

    " This book drew me in because of its story about sisters and setting in New Brunswick, Canada, where my mother's ancestors lived. I loved the character development in this novel, as well as the beautiful descriptions of the land and environment, especially in New Brunswick.

    "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kasey | 4/17/2011

    " Last time I checked, books were supposed to have a plot. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carol | 4/8/2011

    " Enjoyed peering on these sister's lives, their joys, hardships, relationships with others. The book floats through their lives recalling individual events. Made me feel like I was chatting with an elderly person recapping their lives. Wonderful Book.

    "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nancy | 3/28/2011

    " I am glad my friend Steph recommended this to me because it was a new addition to my reading diet - not the genre I usually read but interesting characters and some potential discussion points for a book club to talk about. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rosemary | 2/27/2011

    "
    Read it because it's set in roughly my current region.
    Liked it though it's a sad, gritty realistic tale. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Liz | 2/25/2011

    " This is a book I LOVED! Tracey put it on your to read list "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Elizabeth | 2/13/2011

    " Eh...I finished it, but just barely. Not one I'd recommend. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lizc | 2/13/2011

    " I enjoyed this book though it was touching and tough to read about the dysfunctional life of the family at the beginning and throughout their lives. "

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About the Author

Beverly Jensen earned an MFA in drama from Southern Methodist University. She died of cancer in 2003 at the age of forty-nine without publishing her work. Since her death, her fiction has been championed by a dedicated group of supporters, including Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates. After her death, her story “Wake” was published in the New England Review, included in The Best American Short Stories 2007, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is survived by her husband, Jay Silverman, and their two children.

About the Narrator

Bernadette Dunne is the winner of numerous AudioFile Earphones Awards and has twice been nominated for the prestigious Audie Award. She studied at the Royal National Theatre in London and the Studio Theater in Washington, DC, and has appeared at the Kennedy Center and off Broadway. She lives in Brooklyn.