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Reviewed by Lois Henderson for Readers' Favorite
Gichi Manidoo by Charles J. Musser tells of a realtor, Federico Garcia, a PTSD-suffering veteran from the conflict in Afghanistan, who befriends Marie, the woman whose husband’s house he is trying to sell. Marie, who appears to be a profoundly troubled woman, takes a sudden tumble down the stairs under what appears to be suspicious circumstances and falls into a coma from which she appears unlikely to recover. Elizabeth, a teenage girl, tells Federico that only by listening to a magical tale will Marie be able to survive. Herewith starts the story within a story that is akin to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as Elizabeth tells of another world entered through a rabbit hole, where she meets a wide range of talking animals.
The magic realism of Musser’s Gichi Manidoo is entrancing in its profundity—by enabling the animals to philosophize about occurrences in the outer world, the reader is able to gain perspective on the harsh realities of a sometimes brutal world. I thoroughly enjoyed the whimsical way in which the animals speak to one another. It frees the thought processes from the confinements of a (sometimes rigidly) structured society, in which we are so often subjected to mechanistic control over which we have minimal control. Musser’s intimate and sensitive portrayal of the different animals made me want to accept his poetic vision of our fractured world. I especially loved Musser’s descriptions of the meerkat, as they are such winning creatures, with clear and unique characteristics of their own.
While the outer frame of the audiobook of Gichi Manidoo is narrated by Alan Silva, who has a deeply reassuring and well-rounded voice, Francesca Del Greco, with a much higher-pitched voice that she varies appealingly enough from one creature to another, narrates the inner frame. An essential component of magical realism is that what would otherwise be regarded as magical (such as talking animals) is rendered acceptable as the norm of everyday existence. With this audiobook, the world of the inner frame shows the sharp distinction between Silva’s sonorous masculine tone and Del Greco’s feminine and almost childlike sharper tone. It is a highly professional recording and makes for intriguing listening.