Run Away from Olivia

The Opportunist by Tarryn Fisher is a novel I both heard on Audible and read on Kindle. I find listening to a book difficult because if I become not particularly interested in the story, my mind wanders or I think I can multi-task and do something in another window. I cannot. I recently found an audiobook that keeps my interest, Bad Mommy by this author. It is good, keeps my interest and I look forward to finishing it and writing a good review. This weekend I had a bad food experience that made me not want to do anything, like read. I opened Audible but did not want to continue with Mommy; it is interesting and I want to enjoy the details. I decided to open a new book, The Opportunist. The writer had already impressed me. With an eight hour run time, the book should get me through my downtime from reading.

After listening to the complete audiobook, sure enough, sickness was gone. But I could not believe the banality of what I had heard so I downloaded the Kindle print through Kindle Unlimited. I wanted to see in print what I had heard. This was as close to a polar opposite from Bad Mommy as possible in terms of interesting. Even the best part of the novel, the narration by Andi Arndt, had an annoying flaw. The voice of Caleb throughout the novel has a low, breathy, understated sound. This might be intended to emphasize the air of superiority Caleb exhibits to all, even those he deigns to consider have a brain. It does not fit with the voice of a sports hero, the idol of everything and anything female, and a fabulously wealthy dilettante.

The Opportunist, audio or print starts out with a great opening that sets up a situation almost guaranteed to hold my interest. Olivia is on a nightly walk. A stranger offers her an umbrella. Looking past him, she sees Caleb, a former lover she has not seen for four years. Turning down the offer of an umbrella, she approaches Caleb expecting a greeting. He greets her and offers help but doesn’t seem to know her. Eventually, he informs Olivia that he has been in some type of accident and has amnesia. He knows it is selective amnesia, memory will eventually return.

The reader immediately sees the plot. She will try to foster their relationship and manipulate his returning memories so that she can have a happier result to the relationship than the couple had years earlier. Sounds good but the reader who cleverly constructs this plot will encounter a few surprises. But not soon. After this interesting beginning, the audiobook drags the reader along to where the book again becomes interesting, between the 5 ½ hour and the 6-hour point. In between are some of the blandest, cliché-ridden, and trite expressions I have heard in an audible file. Some situation descriptions rise to the rank of offensive. Once past this marathon of dullness, the story becomes interesting again for another approximately one-and-one-half hours before returning to a nightmarishly boring ending. The nightmare is that an interesting story was allowed to return home to … meh.

Going to the offensive part first, it occurs throughout the six-hour wasteland. Olivia is attractive but uninterested in the licentious lifestyle associated with college life, where she met Caleb. She is not unaware of the wild side; she lives it vicariously through roommate Cam. She encourages Olivia to attend a basketball game where superstar Caleb is playing. Olivia doesn’t care about sports and doesn’t care about dating. We are told that her chaste, pure, virginal status might be a result of childhood experiences. Nope, her father didn’t molest her but did pick her up from school and stop by apartments of different girlfriend where she would wait while Daddy attended to community relations. This resulted in an “adult” Olivia that used makeup, dressed to attract men but mentally despised them as they noticed her dress, makeup, and body. Anyone see a problem with this? I can imagine Lady Godiva on one of her rides mentally saying, “I am making a political statement here, quit looking only at my nudity.” Right.

The book shifts back and forth between the time of Caleb pre-amnesia and post-amnesia. What happened to cause the break-up between Olivia and Caleb in the first place? How will his returning memories affect their present life? (Following is NOT a spoiler) There will not be much different. Once that is determined, the book moves on and becomes interesting, beginning with some legal battles.

I wondered if this novel could begin just prior to the legal battles and go forth independently and without the self-indulgent ending. The ending reads like a group therapy outcome.

This is so different from Bad Mommy that I will finish Mommy, write a good review, and then go on to read something else by this author. I want to see if she is a “pendulum writer” swinging between very good and very less-than-good.

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