The Thing About December by Donal Ryan ~ Audiobook Review

Cover of The Thing about December

The Thing About December by Donal Ryan

Published by: Steerforth Press

Published on: August 26, 2014

Page Count: 208

Genre: Fiction

My Reading Format: Audiobook review copy provided by the publisher.

Audiobook Published by: Steerforth Press

Narrator: Wayne Farrell

Audiobook Length: 6 hours 14 minutes

Available Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, and Audiobook

Summary from the Publisher:

While the Celtic Tiger rages, and greed becomes the norm, Johnsey Cunliffe desperately tries to hold on to the familiar, even as he loses those who all his life have protected him from a harsh world. Following the deaths first of his father and then his mother, Johnsey inherits the family farm, and a healthy bank account, both of which he proves incapable of managing on his own. Village bullies and scheming land-grabbers stand in his way, no matter where he turns. Though companionship, and the promise of love, enter his life as a result of a hospital stay following a brutal beating, Johnsey remains a lonely man struggling to keep up with a world that moves faster than he does.

Set over the course of one year of Johnsey Cunliffe’s life, The Thing About December breathes with Johnsey’s bewilderment, humor and agonizing self-doubt. Readers will fall in love with Johnsey in a bittersweet tale that serves as a poignant reminder that we are surrounded in life by simple souls who are nonetheless more insightful and wise than we realize, or can even imagine.

My Review

In The Thing About December, Donal Ryan tells the story of Johnsey Cunliffe, an orphaned young man who most likely is somewhere on the autism spectrum. His parents were loving people, but things were never the same for him after his father died. Widowhood and the fact that Johnsey didn’t live up to his father’s legacy served to embitter Johnsey’s mother. Still, when she died, Johnsey lost his best buffer from a community which found him to be the easiest of targets. And that was before the family land Johnsey inherited stood between him and what the town saw as its only means of future economic growth.

It is impossible to read this novel without it breaking your heart. Johnsey is a simple soul whose primary goal outside of sleeping with his nurse Siobhan and hanging out with Mumbly Dave is to hold on to his family’s land. He already sees himself as a disappointment on so many levels that he doesn’t want to be the one responsible for losing what so many people in his family has worked so hard for – not even for more money than he’d ever be able to spend. It was so difficult to sit back and watch his story unfold without being able to take him as my own son and protect him from the world and his own mistakes.

As an audiobook fan, I cannot say enough about Wayne Farrell. From the first sentences his narration and his gorgeous voice pick me up and take me exactly where the author intends for the reader to go. His performance brought only what our wounded man Johnsey was capable of providing to the story, yet it inspired a much deeper connection between me and Johnsey than I would have anticipated. Farrell’s voice was Johnsey’s voice and Johnsey’s voice is a voice which must be heard.

Earlier this year I had one of my most amazing audiobook experiences with Donal Ryan’s novel The Spinning Heart. Although each section of the book is told through the voice of a distinct character, Wayne Farrell narrated the entire audiobook. This story and the narration were beyond fantastic. They were special. So, when I was offered the opportunity to read another Ryan novel narrated by Farrell it took less than a nanosecond for me to say yes. While The Thing About December was a vastly different experience, it proved that their first collaboration wasn’t just an isolated glimpse at genius. Together these two artists have the power to transport me so completely onto Irish soil that I nearly have to dig it out from underneath my fingernails. Wayne Farrell and Donal Ryan are among my favorite discoveries of 2014. If I had my way, they would continue to tell modern Ireland’s story together for many years to come.


  • At 2014.12.09 08:14, Sheila (Book Journey) said:

    This sounds like an incredible read!

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    • At 2014.12.09 08:14, Sheila (Book Journey) said:

      OOPS – I mean listen 😉

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    • At 2014.12.09 11:07, Dogearedcopy said:

      The audio is only about 6 hours long, and yet it took me close to 6 weeks to listen to it! It’s not that the writing or narration were bad; As a matter of fact, *quite the opposite!* It’s just that the undercurrent of tragedy, sensing it from having previously listened to *The Spinning Heart*, was strong from the very beginning and it was almost unbearable. I love Irish literature, but sometimes it takes me time to screw up my courage to get through it! That said, I can’t wait for another Donal Ryan/Wayne Farrell story 🙂

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      • At 2014.12.09 19:24, Jennifer said:

        Our approaches are polar opposites. When I am listening to something tragic, I can’t make myself stay away from it. I just want to rip the bandage off. It would have been harder for me it I’d spread it out. Here’s to the next Ryan/Farrell collaboration!!!!

      • At 2014.12.09 13:20, Beth Hoffman said:

        I don’t recall hearing about this book before, but you’ve convinced me to put it on my list!

        • At 2014.12.09 19:24, Jennifer said:

          Beth, you will appreciate these books. They are tragic and beautiful.

        (Required, will not be published)

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