Story Rating: 3 stars
Audio Rating: 4 stars
Narrator: Aven Shore and Yvonne Roberts
Length: 3 hours, 27 minutes
At 40 years old, history professor Sam Bell still hasn’t found their game when looking for a date. They have embraced being non-binary, but they still feel unsettled about it when meeting new people. Sam follows the same routine of going to Moonie’s for karaoke night with a group of friends and Sam is always the one to get there early to reserve their favorite table. Sam always hopes Lily will be there to take her turn at the mic. When none of Sam’s friends show up one night, it gives them an opening for conversation with Lily.
Lily loves singing karaoke at Moonies. It’s the one time she can let go of who she is in a safe and comfortable space. She can be someone else, instead of living the life she really doesn’t want. Lily has noticed Sam before and tonight all Lily wants is Sam’s eyes on her. The two of them open up to each other quickly in a cloud of gin and tonic and want, and personal fears are laid out that same night. Even though their desire is real, there is life outside of the karaoke bar and Lily feels that if Sam knew the real her, she wouldn’t hold their interest. Sam and Lily need to let go of their fears and embrace what is right in front of them.
I read another book by Anita Kelly earlier this year that I really liked. While listening to this audio, it felt as if it was a different author, as this story had none of the vibes that I liked so much from the previous one.
Sam has a routine and is just going through life. They have a job as a college professor, but they don’t think too highly of themselves or their job. Sam has a small circle of friends that they hang out with, but they don’t seem especially connected to them and Sam came across as fairly bland. Most of the places that Sam frequents, they find they have a crush on someone that they associate with that place and, at Moonies, the crush is on Lily.
Lily is bright and bold in her yellow dress and she commands the karaoke stage. Sam doesn’t think that Lily ever notices them, but Lily does and one night when Sam’s friends don’t show up, Lily makes her move. This first night that Sam and Lily meet and speak to each other, they unravel a whole lot of personal conversations and the content of those conversations went on too long for me. Lily wanted to make sure that Sam knew she was “fat” and spent a long time talking about how her grandmother fat shamed her. She then spent a long time talking about how she could never find clothes to fit her well and started making her own. Sam then talks about how they don’t know how to dress themselves and don’t know what looks good on them and they always wear basically the same thing everywhere. It was a lot of the same conversation around and around for their first meeting and it made me not really like either character. There is also an emphasis on Sam and what gender they were assigned at birth, and what they look like intimately, and the way it was presented detracted instead of adding to this story for me. The relationship part is then rushed, as this is a novella, and I wasn’t feeling it for Sam and Lily, either separately or together.
The audio narration was nice to listen to overall. I was not familiar with either Aven Shore or Yvonne Roberts as narrators and they both have pleasant voices to listen to that fit the characters. The only issue was that they alternated chapters and Sam’s voice in the chapters from Lily’s POV sounded nothing like Sam’s voice in the chapters from their own POV, and this was something that detracted from the story. The quality of the audio is professional, making easier to listen to overall.