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Songs Without Words
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Songs Without Words

2.98 of 5 stars 2.98  ·  rating details  ·  3,693 ratings  ·  741 reviews
Ann Packer's debut novel, "The Dive from Clausen's Pier, " was a nationwide bestseller that established her as one of our most gifted chroniclers of the interior lives of women. Now, in her long-awaited second novel, she takes us on a journey into a lifelong friendship pushed to the breaking point.
Liz and Sarabeth were childhood neighbors in the suburbs of northern Califo...more
Kindle Edition, 386 pages
Published (first published January 1st 2007)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Sarah
This gets a four star rating because the story engaged me. That said, I was somewhat disappointed. After reading Packer's The Dive From Clausen's Pier I had high expectations and dove eagerly into her latest work. However, the story is not well written. Some of her phrasing, although grammatically correct is so awkward I had to reread certain sentences multiple times in order to extract the meaning. Far more perplexing is the "voice" element. Packer writes the novel in third person, alternating...more
Beth
I listened to this on tape and made up tasks to do so I could keep listening. In fact, it's the kind of book I end up going around the block several times simply because I want to keep listening. That said, it definitely dragged in parts and there were times I wanted to slap the characters for their interminable internal monologues. So the question is: how can a book be both riveting and boring and at the same time?

Songs without Words is the story of a friendship between Liz and Sarabeth, a fri...more
Amy (amyb2332)
I thought most of this book was pretty boring and slow. I kept waiting for something to happen or for the characters to stop feeling so sorry for themselves.

I liked Lillian's review of the book so much that I thought I would copy it to mine to say, I agree.
It took me forever to finish this book because it was so depressing. I loved The Dive from Clausen's Pier, so I was psyched to read Ann Packer's second novel. Songs Without Words, though, was just downright bleak with few redeeming qualities....more
Kinga
I went from strongly disliking this book to liking it and to eventually becoming indifferent.

It was purposedly plotless and sometimes it worked but others times it didn't. First hundred pages got me wondering - will anything ever happen? As it turned out the first half of the book was building up to the book's only event and the rest of it was just the aftermath.

It was a very meticulous study of how people come close, fall apart, come close again.

I was impressed with certain paragraphs but the...more
Jocelynne Broderick
I couldn't get into this book at all. The thing that made me decide to quit? The author finding it necessary to tell me that Joe went to the kitchen, got a glass of milk, drained that, refilled the glass, and when that was gone, let out a huge burp.

I call that fluff. And the portion of the book I read had way too much.

How about this? Joe had two glasses of milk then went to bed. I already know he's a teenage boy, the burp reference was unnecessary. And I assumed he refilled the glass, unless he...more
Lillian
It took me forever to finish this book because it was so depressing. I loved The Dive from Clausen's Pier, so I was psyched to read Ann Packer's second novel. Songs Without Words, though, was just downright bleak with few redeeming qualities. It was a well-written depiction of a depressed teen who cut herself and her family's efforts to cope in the face of this tragedy. But I felt little investment in the characters' recovery process mostly because I didn't like any of them very much. The one ch...more
Kendra
It all boils down to this: This book is dullllllllll. I feel like I just absolutely wasted several hours of my life. Honestly, I kept thinking something was going to happen to make it all worth my time, but no...it's just dull. The whole story revolves around the friendship of Sarabeth and Liz, who have been friends since childhood and who were brought even closer when Sarabeth's mother committed suicide. For most of the book, the two friends are grown women, and their friendship is tested (alth...more
Mary
This book was BORING. I kept reading,waiting for something to happen and nothing did. It's the story of a friendship between two adult women. I really didn't like either character. So when their friendship was hanging in the balance the only thing I could think of was I hope these women drive off a cliff holding hands, or something, because otherwise I don't care if they stay friends.

Diane
Synopsis of the book:
"Sarabeth and Liz grew up across the street from each other, their girlhood friendship deepened by the tragedy of Sarabeth's mother's suicide when the girls were in high school. Packer offers their history in a brief prologue, and the first chapter of the novel finds Liz married with two teenaged children and contentedly immersed in her roles as wife and mother.

Sarabeth, on the other hand, is still single, uncertain about her life and pursuing a career as a house stager, s...more
Heather
More like a 3.5. I loved Dive from Clausen's Pier, and after reading a few reviews of this book, I wondered if I would actually like this one. I went for it anyway. I truthfully do think that her first book was much better of the two, but I still found myself intrigued by this book. A lot of reviews comment on this book being boring, or about her descriptions being too detailed, and I originally thought so, too. But once I got into it, I found myself less and less distracted by the details and m...more
Lori
I really enjoy Ann Packer's writing style. She goes into great detail of every aspect of her characters, their surroundings, and their thoughts. It can get tedious at times but most of the time I like it. It's easy to visualize exactly what her characters are doing, why they're doing it, and where they are when they're doing it.

There were some surprising moments in the book, some dramatic scenes, and a few revelations. Mostly though I found it a pretty slow-paced look into the lives of two women...more
Allison Winchester
I have to say that I loved this book. I loved the characters Liz, Sarahbeth so much. I think what they went through was very realistic and written so well. Although I know some found the male characters in the book to be a little boring I actually felt that they were touched on enough to make it relevant except for maybe Joe as I never really felt I got to know him well. Although he was displayed as your typical teen but with much nicer manners! I actually found Brody interesting, his feelings,...more
Angela
I read this one pretty slowly; I didn't want it to end. It's not one of those books where you want to get lost in its little world, because it feels very real already. Sometimes it's the real side of life we want to escape by reading. Two characters in the book are very depressed, and their actions and thoughts are ones I recognized pretty well.

I was struck by Ms. Packer's dialogue. She has a very good ear for how people talk, to the point that a couple times I had to read passages out loud in o...more
Mai Ling
For some reason, I couldn't put this book down. I was a big fan of Ann Packer's first book, "The Dive From Clausen's Pier," and this one was equally compelling. Both books have a similar mood, I guess some would call it sad, but I think they both capture the world as it is now. It's not like "Songs Without Words" told some amazing new story, it was just told in a way that was so real. A real family dealing with the real problems in a world that could be so much worse. It should be hard to feel s...more
Ann
Jan 21, 2008 Ann rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who liked The Dive From Clausen's Pier (although I liked this even better).
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kay
This was a real keeper. If you've ever had a friend, a cousin, maybe even a lover who was once soooo close and then they weren't, you'll find this book hits the right notes. It's hard to get past some things and sometimes we do get past and sometimes we don't.
John Otto
Don't make the mistake I did and confuse Ann Packer with Ann Patchett. Ann Patchett wrote some very good books, including Bel Canto and Truth and Beauty. That's the author I thought I was getting when I checked out Songs Without Words.

I would call this "chick lit" except that it does a disservice to all the chicks I know and like. It probably would be better labeled as "writers workshop" lit. Some time, some place, someone told Packer that lots of detail enrich a story. It does, when used with d...more
Gerund
Read this book if you are interested in yet another detailed depiction of the lives of quiet desperation playing out in American suburbs.

Ann Packer was hailed as a gifted chronicler of the interior lives of women after her debut novel, The Dive From Clausen’s Pier (2002). In it, a young woman wrestles with feelings of guilt after her fiance, for whom she has lost any passion after an eight-and-a -half year courtship, becomes a quadriplegic when he breaks his neck in a diving accident.

Her second...more
Lori Weir
SONGS WITHOUT WORDS is a book whose characters are divided as clearly as a two-lane highway. Liz, Brody and their son, Joe, are "normals" who have been blindsided by Lauren's suicide attempt and shocked into an altered state, less warm and fuzzy. Sarabeth and Lauren, in contrast, have always had to struggle for happiness, clarity and meaning; they must fight against a constant undertow of isolation and despair (Lauren's high school agonies are particularly vivid). Sarabeth doesn't toy with suici...more
Tori Walker
Whine and Challah bread…
I rated but didn’t review this book right away, because I have been trying to word this review in a way that wouldn’t be…well, harsh.
But, I can’t think of anything nice to say about this book. It took me through chapter after monotonous chapter of depression.
It was painful.
Here is a 30 second synopsis, which may count as a spoiler alert:
Beginning: Everyone starts out pretty depressed
Middle: Everyone is really, really miserable

The End: Everyone is depressed again, althou...more
Charity (CJ)
So many reviewers point to how "depressing" and "boring" this book is. Although I didn't find it so, I can see the "depressing" point. I actually found it a rather hopeful story, exploring how someone can be buried in profound despair and still find a way back up to the surface.

And boring? It's certainly character-driven and most of the action is internal, but I was never bored while reading it. I was sometimes annoyed when a character made a choice or came to a conclusion contrary to what I wa...more
Sara
I really enjoyed the simple, yet emotionally complex, story that Ann Packer told in this novel. I made a lot of text-self connections in many parts of the story, especially with the friendship between Liz and Sarabeth. It was great to read a novel that was set in two of my favorite Bay Area towns: Palo Alto and Berkeley. One flaw I found was when Brody drinks bottled water: what West Coast person drinks Poland Spring? We're Crystal Geyser or Arrowhead people out west, Ann. Only East Coast people...more
Makayla Dorsey
This was the first Ann Packer book that I read so I didn't come in with any expectations like some of you. I was honestly just looking for a summer reading book about 3 days before school started so I picked up the first book with an intriguing premise of a family crisis and its effect on 2 childhood best friends, Liz Castleberry and Sarabeth Leoffler.

One aspect of the book I particularly enjoyed was its opening. The book opens shortly after Liz moves into Sarabeth's home during their childhood...more
Joodith
Liz and Sarabeth have been friends since childhood. Liz’s easy-going, laid back family is the perfect antidote to Sarabath’s painful and awkward homelife; her parents are withdrawn, her mother suffers from depression and Sarahbeth often feels motherless. Now into adulthood they are still the best of friends; Liz is married to Brody and has two children, Lauren and Joe, but Sarahbeth stumbles from one love affair to the next, confiding in Liz, needing her comfort and support.

Suddenly, without wa...more
Tina
The story of an old friendship, love and marriage, motherhood, depression, finding yourself - or at least accepting yourself.

The characters were well developed - so much that I found myself angry at them and was talking to them while reading the book!

I like the way Packer tells a story. I come away with a perfect picture of scenes and places and yet I realize that she doesn't give lengthy descriptions with every detail.
Marian
Jul 06, 2007 Marian rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: yuppies, I guess
I got this book free from ALA and, since I didn't like her last book I should have known I probably wouldn't like this either. Which I didn't. It's not that the writing is BAD, but Packer tells not shows, and the story seems overly wrought and the characters self-absorbed. Packer's depressed teenager character's thoughts and mannerisms seem to have been lifted from a primer on depression. Totally skippable.
Holly Burns
Eh, I don't know -- it was pleasant enough, I suppose. But I didn't much care what happened to anyone. Actually, I found about 70% of the characters really whiny and irritating. And Packer's interpretation of how teenagers "talk" was a little cringe-worthy. I sort of just kept reading it because it was pretty inoffensive, but it did sort of go ON AND ON without much really happening.
CLM
I didn't dislike this book but didn't like it all that much either. The characters were very annoying: at times convincing but at others absurd. I did like the lampshades that Sarabeth made but found Liz's obsession with the bench odd when she showed no other artistic inclinations at all.
Susan
Sep 10, 2007 Susan rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nobody
This is one time when a classy cover doesn't match the book story, which is turning out to be a semi-boring and rather depressing one. I gave up after 110 pages because I can't imagine a friendship between two women being like this, and well ... frankly I don't care how it ends.
Karen
Sep 24, 2007 Karen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
I enjoyed Packers' first book, The Dive From Clausen's Pier, but I liked this second book even better. The characters are not perfect and there is not a happily ever after ending, but there was more resolution at the end than TDFCP. I read this one in a day and am very glad that I did.
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Ann Packer is an American novelist and short story writer, perhaps best known for her critically acclaimed first novel The Dive From Clausen's Pier. She is the recipient of a James Michener Award and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. Packer is the daughter of Stanford University law professor Herbert L. Packer and Nancy Packer, a writer and former professor of English and creative writ...more
More about Ann Packer...
The Dive From Clausen's Pier Swim Back to Me Mendocino: And Other Stories The Children's Crusade: A Novel Ploughshares Fall 1993 : The Passage of Time

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“She was one of those people who seemed to regard busyness as a contest you could win.
p. 246”
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“Sarabeth wondered at the sheer energy it must have taken for her mother to be dissatisfied by so much. Her psyche was like a huge grid of mousetraps, set to spring at the lightest touch. There were traps for Sarabeth's father,traps for Sarabeth. The biggest trap, though, was the grid itself,the trap of being Lorelei.” 1 likes
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