TALK TO ME
Written by: John Kenney
Read by: Robert Petkoff
9 Hours and 5 Minutes
PRHA | Penguin Audio
Genre: Fiction – Literary
Release Date: January 15, 2019
I voluntarily reviewed an advance readers copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
From New Yorker contributor and the Thurber Prize-winning author of Truth in Advertising comes a wry yet tenderhearted look at how one man’s public fall from grace leads him back to his family, and back to the man he used to be.
It’s a story that Ted Grayson has reported time and time again in his job as a network TV anchor: the public downfall of those at the top. He just never imagined that it would happen to him. After his profanity-laced tirade is caught on camera, his reputation and career are destroyed, leaving him without a script for the first time in years.
While American viewers may have loved and trusted Ted for decades, his family certainly didn’t: His years of constant travel and his big-screen persona have frayed all of his important relationships. At the time of his meltdown, Ted is estranged from his wife, Claire, and his adult daughter, Franny, a writer for a popular website. Franny views her father’s disgrace with curiosity and perhaps a bit of smug satisfaction, but when her boss suggests that she confront Ted in an interview, she has to decide whether to use his loss as her career gain. And for Ted, this may be a chance to take a hard look at what got him to this place, and to try to find his way back before it’s too late.
Talk to Me is a sharply observed, darkly funny, and ultimately warm story about a man who wakes up too late to the mess he’s made of his life… and about our capacity for forgiveness and empathy. https://www.penguinrandomhouseaudio.com/book/549985/talk-to-me/
There are a couple of really interesting aspects to this story. With the first it’s how the new media formats sometimes have no scruples but they can lead people to believe the worst and can foment ugly action in the public. We are constantly bombarded by this or that celebrity screwing up. Sometimes it’s a one off, and other times it’s a history of well-hidden bad behavior. In the past few years we’ve seen both in male news anchors, and both have had disastrous effects on the person’s career. Another aspect is how young journalists are fighting to make a living, even if they are children of the famous — privileged kids are not guaranteed happiness or success.
This is about a guy in the middle of a mid-life crisis; someone who has a bad day, vents inappropriately, and a little accustomed to being treated in the way he wants to be treated.
I confess, at the start of the story I was unsure if it would be a good story for me; I thought it might be about a whiny character drowning in his white, male privilege. But the story caught on for me, and I found it sad and poignant.
This guy has a really tough time and starts to believe he was the entire problem: as a father, in his marriage and now, at work. One stupid utterance, an angry outburst only described from one side, and Ted’s long career, is over. It takes him a while to get his head wrapped around this. He is cowed by the press and beyond, he is depressed about his marriage and he becomes more depressed about his daughter.
I went from thinking Ted should lose his job to becoming more sympathetic to his plight. I wondered if this is who we are now, a society where one mistake — a verbal and non-physical mistake — is enough to be persecuted? When the victim forgives you what about the public? When the corporation takes action against the perpetrator and the victim (without the perp’s knowledge) who is at fault?
Sometimes I thought the author was reaching past media and journalism as a subject towards current politics, but I think it was a case of my reading to much into it.
The narration is excellent: Petkoff is experienced and doesn’t over act. His voice fits the main character and feels very much like he had really stepped into Ted’s shoes without hamming it up.
So, a bit of a rough start for me, but I stuck it out and was rewarded.
Kenney does not appear to have a website or blog here;’s what I found
AUTHOR’S Page at PUBLISHER: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/2144471/john-kenney
AUTHOR’S TWITTER: https://twitter.com/jkenneywriter