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Extended Audio Sample World and Town: A Novel Audiobook, by Gish Jen Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (314 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Gish Jen Narrator: Janet Song Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2010 ISBN: 9781470800482
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Sixty-eight-year-old Hattie Kong, descendant of Confucius, daughter of an American missionary, has lived to see both her husband and her best friend die back-to-back in a single year: “It was like having twins…She got to book the same church with the same pianist for both funerals and did think she should have gotten some sort of twofer from the crematorium.”

But two years later, it’s time for Hattie to start over. She moves to a small New England town where she is soon joined by a Cambodian American family and an ex-lover—now a retired neuroscientist—all of them looking for their own new lives.

What Hattie makes of this situation and of the changing town of Riverlake—challenged as it is, in 2001, by fundamentalist Christians, struggling family farms, and unexpected immigrants—lies at the center of a novel that asks deep and absorbing questions about religion, home, and what “worlds” we make of the world.

Moving, humorous, and broad-ranging, World and Town is rich in character and brilliantly evocative of its time and place. This is a masterful novel from one of our most admired writers.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “One of Jen’s greatest strengths is her fluid point of view, which she employs beautifully here, alternating perspectives among Hattie, Sophy, and a local man named Everett, whose wife is Sophy’s sponsor at the Heritage Bible Church. Nothing is fixed for these unsettled characters, who keep trying to build new lives in a bewildering world, and whose victories, when they come, bring not rapture but ‘a defining grace, bittersweet and hard-won.’”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “In this thick, satisfying sprawl of a read…Jen gracefully introduces some of the great issues of our time.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “Jen unwinds another expansive story of identity and acceptance, deploying voices that are as haunting and revealing as they are original…Jen’s prose is unique, dense, and enthralling, and her characters are marvels of authenticity.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Sharply funny and wisely compassionate, Jen’s richly stippled novel slyly questions every assumption about existence and meaning even as it celebrates generosity, friendship, and love.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “New lives, new towns, new worlds revolve around the character of Hattie Kong, a retired high school biology teacher who has moved to a New England town. Janet Song performs Gish Jen's absorbing novel with tones that evoke the heroine’s Asian heritage and inner knowledge. Song moves through three vocal sensibilities with precision and clarity—an American accent, an Asian accent, and deftly suggested Asian dialects. Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award.”

    AudioFile

  • “Lovely…Jen is masterful at mixing keen observation with wit and wisdom, and she is in top form here.”

    BookPage

  •   Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award
  •   A Booklist Editors’ Choice for2010: Fiction
  •  A Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week

Listener Opinions

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

    " So far, really enjoying this. It is rare -- and wonderful, in this case -- to find a 68-year-old female protagonist. "

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

    " saving it for book group "

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

    " I dragged myself through a hundred pages, and the ebook expired (from the library). I'm not going to put it back on hold... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tonya | 1/12/2014

    " This was an okay book, parts of it I really did enjoy, but parts seemed to drag on a bit for me. I liked the story telling with the different points of view, but some seemed very long (Sophy) and some were never mentioned that I would have liked to hear, (Sarun or Chunng). "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lola425 | 12/18/2013

    " Great characters, but I had a hard time getting into the relationship of Carter and Hattie. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Paul | 12/7/2013

    " There are so many themes in the book: destiny vs will, science vs superstition, how the smallest towns are complicated like the biggest cities. That you can believe in a thing (like God and religion) and not believe in it at them same time. That you can be a scientist and be superstitious. The themes are brought forward by the characters in their daily lives and how complex the human condition is. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ellen | 12/5/2013

    " I loved this book. I listened to the audio version, and the narrator was perfect. I loved Hattie, her story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Amy | 11/25/2013

    " Hard to describe, but I really liked this book. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Pat | 8/23/2013

    " too long and rambling for me "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Sarah | 5/18/2013

    " The focus of this story was all over, too much in some places and not enough in others. The potential exists for this to be better, but the structure is so flawed. I also feel that first person limited would have brought us into the story better. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Gaye | 2/1/2013

    " This wonderful book was a big hit with our book club ! I had not read anything by Gish Jen before and I loved her writing. Look forward to reading others books by her. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Janice | 8/29/2012

    " I enjoyed this novel but don't consider it among Gish Jen's best. I missed the humor that characterized "Typical American" and "Mona in the Promised Land." "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sterndiane | 3/20/2012

    " Excellent beginning, but bogs down in the middle. Jen is so vividly observant about older adults, babies..and animals. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Theresa | 2/6/2012

    " Skimmed through this after reading about the first 1/4. There was both too much and not enough going on in the story, and the characters were not compelling. I was very surprised because I liked a couple of Jen's earlier books. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laura | 1/8/2012

    " Oh man, I enjoyed this book so much. Dear Gish Jen: please don't go so long between books. Love, me. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Michelle | 10/11/2011

    " ugh. i wanted to like this book - i really did. but it went off in so many random tangents and the characters were so flat and predictable that it was almost painful to read. blah. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Katie | 9/23/2011

    " Enjoyable but fairly forgettable. Touches on some heavy, interesting themes (immigration, religion, love, family) without being pretentious. Different chapters were written in different characters' voices, which was mostly successful, though some of the characters were a bit fuller than others. "

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

    " a drainage ditch a foot or two deep would be filled with water very quickly, on a property as wet as she described it. Therefore, 6 months after the ditch was started, as in the book, her character chhang would not be able to sleep in it. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Cathy | 6/14/2011

    " too sappy but could have been good. could have been the reader who ruined it for me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Vtalland | 5/6/2011

    " I have read several books by Gish Jen, whom I admire very much. I am impressed how tremendously varied is her narrator's voice from one book to the next. This book is populated by people who seem often on the edge of credibility yet they are nonetheless familiar. I recommend it. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Lulu | 3/23/2011

    " It was no Mona In The Promised Land, that's for sure. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laura | 1/23/2011

    " Oh man, I enjoyed this book so much. Dear Gish Jen: please don't go so long between books. Love, me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Natalie | 1/11/2011

    " "In what you are proud of", Lee used to say, "you can see in what way you are nuts." - awesome line. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 ingrid | 12/28/2010

    " Can't remember where I got the recommendation from but did not finish this book. Dumb. Perhaps even trite. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Janice | 12/21/2010

    " I enjoyed this novel but don't consider it among Gish Jen's best. I missed the humor that characterized "Typical American" and "Mona in the Promised Land." "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Sarah | 12/21/2010

    " The focus of this story was all over, too much in some places and not enough in others. The potential exists for this to be better, but the structure is so flawed. I also feel that first person limited would have brought us into the story better. "

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About the Author
Gish Jen is the author of four novels, a book of stories, and a previous book of nonfiction, Tiger Writing. Her honors include the Lannan Literary Award for fiction and the Mildred and Harold Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
About the Narrator

Janet Song is the recipient of multiple Earphones Awards and was named one of AudioFile magazine’s Best Voices of 2008. Recent audiobooks include Euna Lee’s The World is Bigger Now and Lisa See’s Shanghai Girls. She lives and works in Southern California as an actor on stage and screen.