Review: Awakening Storm

Awakening Storm Awakening Storm by Jonathan Lowe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Note: This review was originally written in the early 2000s and published for a no longer running website: AudiobookCafe. This review is focused on both the book and audiobook. From Jonathan Lowe, comes a psychological thriller about a divided family, a religious zealot, and a man haunted by his past. Having survived a dirty and manipulative divorce, Veronica struggles to keep her life in balance and her career as a psychologist. In her work, she comes upon Michael Rivers, a man with a troubled past.

Michael suffers from insomnia and lives off of coffee to keep from facing his nightmares. Through her counseling, Veronica discovers that Michael’s dark past has connections to an evangelical preacher, Reverend Stillman. This same man has gained a recent follower: Veronica’s ex-husband. As a staunch unforgiving Christian, her husband abused his power as a Federal judge to influence the custody hearing so that he would be the main caretaker of their child. Veronica needs to find someway to get back the boy before her ex-husband moves to Miami; several thousand miles away from Veronica and the home of the Reverend Stillman.

This audiobook starts off a little slowly but as the third-hour approaches, one becomes completely absorbed into the story. The build up and the background while quite detailed and interesting make sense at the end and can be more appreciable during a second listen. The climax adds a fantastic supernatural twist that is quite unexpected.

Lowe’s depiction of Michael gives this book its true edge. He manages to paint Michael, as someone who definitely strays from the norm, but does not overdo it by making Michael a stereotypical eccentric. Rather than presenting Michael completely distant, the listener becomes enveloped in Michael’s world through his actions, his talks with Veronica, and most importantly, his journal. His journal entries transition the reader into Michael’s mind and let the particular episode run its length in a first-person viewpoint. The story then returns to its third-person point of view. Many of the entries are from Michael’s youth and Lowe again, manages to impressively depict Michael’s self-alienation and his sources of estrangement.

Michael’s compelling character came partly from Barret Whitener’s superb talent. The unsteadiness of Michael’s voice betrays such vulnerability and lost innocence tempered with a certain strength and acceptance. When Michael speaks, his voice reveals a deeper sadness even during his happier moments in the audiobook. Whitener completely fleshes Michael out with his tone and demeanor.

Whitener gives additional color to Reverend Stillman as well. Lowe portrays Stillman as a deeply tainted man and Whitener, merely fills in the blanks, and increases Stillman’s eeriness. Whitener’s demeanor while speaking as Stillman or describing his actions creates such a dark and cold environment, that Stillman becomes scarier because he feels so real to the listener.

On the whole, this audiobook makes a great and genuine thriller since the listener can never quite be sure where the story is going and how it will end. The only shortcoming comes with Veronica. Lowe does not pay the same attention to Veronica as he does to Stillman and Michael—or maybe she’s just not nearly as interesting or compelling in the overall story. She seems authentic but in the same story as Michael and Stillman, she doesn’t have the same resonance. This idea is reinforced by Whitener. Whitener does not nearly breathe as much life to Veronica as he does to Michael or Stillman. One doesn’t feel as much compassion for her, even though she is the protagonist.

“Awakening Storm,” involves dynamics that can be both familiar and foreign to its listener but these dynamics work well. The listener can easily catch on to these dynamics and appreciate them. With a fantastic narrator and a compelling story, this audiobook is by far an enjoyable listen for anyone who likes a good thriller now and again.

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