Where I Got It: Downloaded it from Audible
Why I Read It: It was an impulse download and I’m soooo glad I listened to my impulse
My Rating: 5 stars
Set at Seabrooke College (a Catholic boarding school in Dublin), Skippy Dies revolves around the death of Daniel “Skippy” Juster. It isn’t a murder mystery per se (after all, Skippy dies, on the floor of a donut shop, in the first few pages of the book.) Yet it is a mystery. Just exactly WHY does Skippy die?
The first part of the book takes place before Skippy’s death and introduces us to Skippy and his life at Seabrooke, where Skippy is one of a group of boarders. As the story develops, we get to know life at Seabrooke and get glimpses into the realities of Skippy’s life. (The boy is bearing many burdens that he keeps well hidden.) Then, just as we begin to grasp things, Skippy dies and aftermath of his death changes the lives of everyone around him—forcing them to look deep within to find their role in his death and the answers they need to keep on living.
This book was brilliant! It was my only 5 star read from 2011, and I just can’t describe to you why this book just rocked my world. However, I will do my best to give you sense of why this book works on so many levels.
Perhaps the reason the book came together for me is that the author manages to combine tragedy and comedy in a way that has you moving from snorts of laughter (just try not to laugh when cynical Dennis explains the “real” meaning of Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken or Mario discusses his lucky condom) to tears of anguish (Ruprecht’s reaction to Skippy’s death just broke my heart in a million pieces). To me, Murray managed to get the world of the 14-year-old boy spot-on—with its sense of possibility and innocence mixed with the first dawnings of harsh reality and heartbreak. The boys at Seabrooke College will tug at your heartstrings while also making you turn away in disgust.
Balancing out the life of the boys is the experiences of their teacher, Howard Fallon (who was once a Seabrooke boy himself). In some ways, Howard represents the future of the boys we’re coming to know—the harshness of the “real” world where you might get the girl but then grow tired of her annoying habits and the sheer dreariness of living day after day with the same person. Add in a past you cannot seem to shake and the horror of ruthless, ambitious men like The Automator, and you wonder if perhaps Skippy is the lucky one to depart life so early.
This book captured what it feels like to be on the cusp of the “real” world while also reminding us of what the real world feels like when you’ve been in it for a while. The charm of the boys and their exploits captured my imagination and heart. Like Ruprecht, I mourned for Skippy. In many ways, Skippy represents the death of innocence. As the aftermath of his death leaves the main characters grasping for meaning and a way out of the darkness that his death reveals, I found myself journeying with them.
I’m struggling to capture for you what the book is like as it is often a big sprawling mess of a thing that may require some time to fall into its rhythms. When I first started it, I was unsure about it … if I was “getting” it. But Murray does a brilliant job of weaving a rich and multi-colored tapestry of a story. At first, all the threads feels disconnected and loose, but as the story develops, it comes together in a tightly woven, connected whole and it is breath-taking.
About the Narration
I listened to this book on audio and I’m so glad I did as I’m convinced that the brilliance of the narration is what put this over the top for me. This was the first time I listened to an audiobook that was narrated by multiple readers. (There is a primary narrator who “reads” the book and then different voices for each of the primary characters.) It was like listening to a play in many ways. By having a wide range of Irish actors and actresses play the various roles, the book came alive for me in a way that an audiobook hasn’t quite done before. The voice for The Automator was dead-on, and I came to love Dennis and Ruprecht’s voices as well. The sultry voice of Ms. McIntyre (the teacher who captures Howard’s imagination) was filled with all kinds of flirty knowingness that made you see exactly why he was enchanted by her. Whoever cast the book was a genius. For a long listen (20+ hours), I think it might have gotten to be too much if it was just one reader. Yet I found myself mesmerized by the book. I couldn’t wait to get back to it. This is one book where I would definitely recommend the audio experience if you can get it. It elevated a brilliant novel into something more special.
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