Ah, another foray into the world of audiobooks. My audiobook selections tend to revolve mainly around what the library has available for download at the exact moment I'm looking; Eight Hundred Grapes fit that description when I finished Dark Places and was looking for something else to listen to while walking to/from work and doing my running. The book had caught my eye before, from Book of the Month and then on a few lists of good books from 2016, so I decided it was worth a shot. The results?
Pretty good! The narrator here is good for the book's main character, Georgia, who narrates the story in first-person. Georgia flees to her family's vineyard in Sonoma County, California, seeking refuge after seeing her fiance out on the street with another woman and a child she never knew about while she was at the final fitting for her wedding dress. Upon her arrival, she discovers her mother has another man in the house, her father is sleeping in the winemaker's cottage, the family vineyard has been sold to a Big Bad Corporation, and one of her brothers might just be in love with the other's wife. Yikes. So the story is Georgia attempting to navigate all of this family drama, all the while trying to decide whether or not she should forgive her fiance for keeping his daughter a secret and marry him anyway.
This is a story of family drama, clearly, which I really enjoy. I liked how Georgia's first-person chapters were interspersed with other chapters set in the past that focused more on her parents. Those third-person chapters helped to flesh out how they ended up where they were in a good, characterizing fashion, rather than her mother and father just info-dumping everything on Georgia in her chapters. Though, now that I think of it, I wonder if there was a bit of omniscience from Georgia here, her picking up on things from those third-person chapters that she's never actually told in the first-person ones... Hm.
Georgia is a likeable character, and the supporting characters were likable, too--even the transgressing Ben. The narrator's voice sounds a little silly when she tries to do the dialogue for the men in the book, but until my dream of having every audiobook read by a full cast is realized, I guess that's something I'm just stuck with. But story-wise, the things that I didn't like here were two-fold. First, not enough Jacob. For how the book ends, I think there needed to be more Jacob. Second, that epilogue! This, even though it's still about Georgia, abruptly switches from first-person to third-person, and it comes across as really cheesy and just...ugh. Did not like. I think that the book easily could have ended with the last chapter from Georgia's perspective and been just fine. Maybe even better. Just like how the movie Lincoln would have been better if it had ended with that shot of him going down the stairs to leave for Ford's Theater instead of going through the entire assassination sequence, because hey, we all know how it ends, right?
This was a shorter book, but it had a great sense of atmosphere, good pacing, and good characters. The narrator mostly suited it, and overall I found it a very enjoyable reading/listening experience.
4 stars out of 5.