Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Review: The Children’s Crusade by Ann Packer


Title: The Children’s Crusade

Author: Ann Packer
(Author Website) (Facebook)

Narrators: Cotter Smith, Frederick Weller, Thomas Sadoski, Marin Ireland and Santino Fontana

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Audio Unabridged edition (April , 2015)

Length:  12 CDs

Source: Audiobook Jukebox‘s reviewer program

About the Book: (from

From the New York Times bestselling, award-winning author of The Dive From Clausen's Pier, a sweeping, masterful new novel that explores the secrets and desires, the remnant wounds and saving graces of one California family, over the course of five decades.

Bill Blair finds the land by accident, three wooded acres in a rustic community south of San Francisco. The year is 1954, long before anyone will call this area Silicon Valley. Struck by a vision of the family he has yet to create, Bill buys the property on a whim. In Penny Greenway he finds a suitable wife, a woman whose yearning attitude toward life seems compelling and answerable, and they marry and have four children. Yet Penny is a mercurial housewife, at a time when women chafed at the conventions imposed on them. She finds salvation in art, but the cost is high.

Thirty years later, the three oldest Blair children, adults now and still living near the family home, are disrupted by the return of the youngest, whose sudden presence and all-too-familiar troubles force a reckoning with who they are, separately and together, and set off a struggle over the family's future. One by one, the siblings take turns telling the story--Robert, a doctor like their father; Rebecca, a psychiatrist; Ryan, a schoolteacher; and James, the malcontent, the problem child, the only one who hasn't settled down-their narratives interwoven with portraits of the family at crucial points in their history.

About the Author:  (from author website)

Ann Packer

Ann Packer was born in Stanford, California, in 1959, and grew up near Stanford University, where her parents were professors. She attended Yale University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has received fellowships from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, the Michener-Copernicus Society, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

She is the acclaimed author of two collections of short fiction, Swim Back to Me and Mendocino and Other Stories, and two bestselling novels, Songs Without Words and The Dive from Clausen’s Pier, which received the Kate Chopin Literary Award, among many other prizes and honors. Her short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker and in the O. Henry Prize Stories anthologies, and her novels have been published around the world.

Ann returned to her native Bay Area in 1995. She lives in San Carlos with her family.

About the Narrators:

Cotter Smith -  is an American actor of stage, film, and television. As an audiobook narrator, he has won two Earphones Awards and was a finalist in 1997 for the prestigious Audie Award. Audiobooks also include:  Millionaire Next Door, Millionaire Mind, Citizen Soldiers and Victors by Stephen E Ambrose.

Frederick Weller - Frederick Weller's films include Four Lane Highway, The Shape of Things, When Will I Be Loved, Coyote Ugly, Basquiat and Armageddon. Television series include In Plain Sight (debut USA), The Jury, Law & Order: SVU & Criminal Intent, Pastor's Wife, and Missing Persons. On Broadway he starred in Seascape, Glengarry Glen Ross, Take Me Out, The Rehearsal, and Six Degrees of Separation. Audiobooks also include: Twisted by Jeffery Deaver, Nocturne by Jeffery Deaver and Blind Fall by Christopher Rice.

Thomas Sadoski - Thomas Sadoski was born on 1st July 1976 in Bethany, Connecticut. In 1980 he moved with his family to College Station, Texas. He has been in numerous plays Off-Broadway, and many regional theatres including the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Made his Broadway debut in 2004 playing Mary-Louise Parker's husband in the critically acclaimed production of "Reckless". Audiobooks also include: Mile 81 by Stephen King.

Marin Ireland - Marin Ireland is an actress, known for
Side Effects (2013), I Am Legend (2007) and Revolutionary Road (2008). Audiobooks also include: XO by Jeffery Deaver

Santino Fontana - Santino Fontana is an actor, known for
Frozen (2013), Frozen Fever (2015) and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014). Audiobooks also include: You by Caroline Kepnes and The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman.

My Review: The Children’s Crusade by Ann Packer is a family drama spanning from 1950 to present day.  Bill Blair is a pediatrician and veteran of war.   Bill  meets Penny and they marry.  Penny has dreams of her family, 3 children would be perfect.  The first child born is Robert than Rebecca and Ryan, the three R’s, perfect.   Later James is born and Penny is unhappy about this, three children was the plan.  James is a rambunctious little boy and just too much for Penny.   She withdraws  from parenting him and the other children and Bill and the older children really parent James.  This really shows the impact that childhood experiences can have on someone into adulthood.  James always feels like the odd man out, not an “R” name. 

Children’s Crusade is really a coming of age story of a family.  A real family drama with complicated relationships.  There is a strong character story of each individual.  You really feel like you understand the characters, except for Penny.  Penny is very self-centered and removed from her family physically and emotionally.   I would have like to know more about her thought process regarding her decisions.  With Penny being the exception I felt like I knew the characters equally, but didn’t like them equally.  

The audio book of Children’s Crusade was performed by a cast of narrators, which allowed for great distinction between the characters.   I really felt the different voices fit the characters well and were easily distinguishable.  The pace of the narration went well this the story and plot.  Listening to Children’s Crusade did not have a huge impact on me…I wasn’t driving around the block to listen to more.  This had more to do with the actual story than the narration. 

My Rating: 3/5 – liked it- Children’s Crusade had me wishing for more throughout the book.  When was something of significance  going to happen??   I struggle with stories that don’t have a real pivotal point in the story.  The family overall, left me wondering how Bill could let this situation continue.  He often said “children need care”, but that was something his children were missing, at least from their mother.  This had a lasting effect on the children, especially James.  Good reminder that our actions as parents stay with our children much longer than we think. 

Children’s Crusade is really a character study of the Blair family.  Children’s Crusade is a family drama which touches on the themes such as healing, hope, innocence and forgiveness.   In all honestly, if this wasn’t a review book, I would have most likely not finished the book. 

The other item that was difficult for me was the ending of Children’s Crusade by Ann Packer, I was very disappointed in the ending.  It didn’t feel like much of an ending, I felt that as a reader I was left wishing for more once again. 

This was not the first book I have read by Ann Packer. My book group read The Dive from Clausen’s Pier which I enjoyed.  So don’t let this review discourage your from giving Ann Packer a try.

My Rating Scale: 1 – didn’t like it; 2 – it was ok; 3 – liked it; 4 – really liked it; 5 – it was amazing

Children’s Crusade by Ann Packer was also reviewed on the following blogs:  BookChatterWest Metro Mommy Reads, and Adventures with Words.

**Disclosure – Children’s Crusade by Ann Packer was received from Audiobook Jukebox’s reviewer program and Simon & Schuster Audio in exchange for a fair review.

Posted by Jen C at 7:45 AM 0 comments

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