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Real Life

A Novel
Narrated by: Kevin R. Free
Length: 9 hrs and 25 mins
3.1 out of 5 stars (7 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A Finalist for the 2020 Booker Prize

New York Times Editors' Choice

"A blistering coming of age story" (O: The Oprah Magazine)

A novel of startling intimacy, violence, and mercy among friends in a Midwestern university town, from an electric new voice.

Almost everything about Wallace is at odds with the Midwestern university town where he is working uneasily toward a biochem degree. An introverted young man from Alabama, Black and queer, he has left behind his family without escaping the long shadows of his childhood. For reasons of self-preservation, Wallace has enforced a wary distance even within his own circle of friends - some dating each other, some dating women, some feigning straightness. But over the course of a late-summer weekend, a series of confrontations with colleagues, and an unexpected encounter with an ostensibly straight, White classmate, conspire to fracture his defenses while exposing long-hidden currents of hostility and desire within their community.

Real Life is a novel of profound and lacerating power, a story that asks if it’s ever really possible to overcome our private wounds, and at what cost.

©2020 Brandon Taylor (P)2020 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"[A] stunning debut...Taylor proves himself to be a keen observer of the psychology of not just trauma, but its repercussions.... There is a delicacy in the details of working in a lab full of microbes and pipettes that dances across the pages like the feet of a Cunningham dancer: pure, precise poetry." (Jeremy O. Harris, The New York Times Book Review)

"Equal parts captivating, erotic, smart and vivid...[rendered] with tenderness and complexity, from the first gorgeous sentence of his book to its very last...Taylor is also tackling loneliness, desire and - more than anything - finding purpose, meaning and happiness in one’s own life." (Time)

"[Real Life is] a sophisticated character study of someone squaring self-preservation with a duty to tolerate people who threaten it. The book teems with passages of transfixing description, and perhaps its greatest asset is the force of Wallace’s isolation, which Taylor conveys with alien strangeness." (The New Yorker)

What listeners say about Real Life

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  • uma
  • 27-10-2020

Beautiful but bleak

Writing was gorgeously poetic and I think the narrator did it justice. The perspective on the world is a bleak one, so not one for a muggy, rainy week in isolation...

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Extremely DULL!!

An EXTREMELY dull book with no real storyline. As it’s so short I persisted, waiting for something to happen ..... but it didn’t. The Author tries to add shock value and interest by including an abusive background story for main character and homosexuality, but the events are so unrelated the narrative just becomes confusing & unpalatable.

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  • Haynes
  • 29-02-2020

Not My Gay Real Life

I Loved this book, the performance and the concepts. The meticulous nature of the science, sex and emotions was amazing. When do we get the sequel?

5 people found this helpful

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  • Matt
  • 20-02-2020

Patience is a virtue

For a story with complex, insightful and deeply sensitive characters.. they are incredibly bad at communicating with each other. Like, frustratingly bad. It is obvious Wallace ( the main character) is extremely intelligent and faces racial & prejudicial challenges/obstacles on the reg; the guy bottles up those emotions and quite effectively pass them along to the reader. The story is told at a painfully slow pace in my opinion, which does allow for the massive amount of detail and insight to be transferred. They story us beautifully written in contrast to the pace, I am extremely confused about how I feel other than gratitude that I am not openly gay or black, and I know that is a terrible thing to say since I am neither racist or homophobic. I honestly had to stop this book with a little more than 3 hours left to go because of how hard it was to listen. So, my review is incomplete. My favorite character is Tom. The guy that just avoids hanging out with this particular circle of friends/colleges. Yes this book does mimic “real life”, judgments at all.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Dennis Sims
  • 08-04-2020

Is this real life? Really!

This book did not grasp my attention I had to force myself to read this book. I do not believe this book demonstrate demonstrate it real life one way or the other. I wish that the book had some substance. Substance to where you can grab hold to whether it’s negative or positive. I see no focus no direction in this book.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Adam
  • 04-07-2020

indifferent

Towards the end of this book the main character talks about being indifferent to something that just happened to him. That is precisely how I feel about this book. Indifferent The Good: We have to start with Kevin R. Free. As usual he gives a stellar performance. He knows how to use emotion in his voice without making it too campy. The writing in this novel is beautiful. The words and description leaves nothing to the imagination. For a debut book I think this author has a lot to offer his readers. The Bad: My biggest gripe with this book is the ending. If you are the type that needs a satisfying ending...or any kind of ending, this isn't the book for you. I honestly felt like we got to this big build up where the characters were going to finally make choices, like a person would do in Real Life, and then it just ended. And because the author has a tendency to jump backwards into the past to explain current characters, characteristics, or relationships I had no idea where the book ended was where it was going to end or needed to end. It felt empty. This isn't the type of book you can just make up your own mind where the story goes from the end.

1 person found this helpful

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  • DS Hearn
  • 30-09-2020

Masterful storytelling and narration

This is a strong story - the places, characters, events. I was drawn in immediately by the author's skills. I wanted to know more about these people and their lives. This is a brilliantly written book. Brandon Taylor's pacing and variation throughout are beautifully done. the story moves well, great pace and details - and he is a master of drawing readers into key moments with a slowing down and focusing in on specific parts of a scene. I enjoyed all of this book - and admire his skill in maneuvering through important current events and issues in this book. I particularly love his scenes involving water and food; some of those places I reread/relistened to, as a writer and not just a reader - I know I've already said this - but he is a master of this moving in and out, speeding us up and slowing us down, writing through the body, heart, entire being. I enjoyed the narration for the audio version. there was enough variation of character voices to know who was who, but it was not too much to be distracting. His voice is clear, matched the story well, good to listen to. very well done. I highly recommend this book.

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  • Chanelle G.
  • 27-08-2020

Real Life

An honest story of the uncertainty and unfairness of real life and the traumas that get us there

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  • Ray Paramo
  • 19-08-2020

The Title is Appropriate

Much like real life, this novel is beautiful, difficult, dark, and confusing. Taylor's writing style is very poetic and vivid. The characters are likable enough, though I found myself growing frustrated with how much Wallace fails/refuses to communicate. He is aware of so much, but the decisions he makes are often frustrating or self-defeating. I suppose I cannot empathize with his experience. He is deeply pained and faces racism and homophobia on so many levels, but he somehow still persists. He is both an aggravating and commendable character. My biggest issue with this novel is that it feels unfinished. There is a climax of sorts, but really no resolution. The reader just gets the impression that things will continue, but definite decisions are made. The future of these characters is unclear. For what it's worth, Kevin R. Free does a great job of narrating, and he did a good job of conveying the emotions of the characters in his dialogue.