Jo Deurbrouck's Reviews > A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain

A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler
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May 10, 12

Read from February 13 to May 10, 2012

This is more a collection of voices than of stories. Compelling, thoughtful, well-meaning, sometimes wise voices, trying to make sense out of life, humanity, nationalism, being Vietnamese, being old, living with war, and trying to love through all the complexities of being human.

I didn't read the book. By happy accident I listened to it. I'd sure recommend the experience. Hearing this collection of voices made the journeys they described and their earnest attempts to understand themselves and their world even more intimate.

One of Butler's recurring devices that I just love is how in the 'now' of the stories, mostly, nothing happens. But the characters are carrying the sums of their lives, and in those lives people have struggled, died, killed. You get all of a very quiet 'now.'

One criticism of the audio version. Between stories there is a very short pause, then Butler (your narrator) reads the title and dives in. The reader would be well served by 1. music of some kind of break indicator; and 2. more time after hearing a new story title and before the story begins. These are stories you want to savor and think about. You don't want to just dive into the next one. And since the story structures are so low key, you literally aren't sure, many times, that a story has ended until Butler announces the next title, which you aren't ready to think about because you're still in the previous story.
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