Being Ethel: In a world that loves Lucy by Michele Olson

Several months ago I came across author Michele Olson on a local community site kind of like Facebook. She’s a local author who has written two books set on Mackinac Island in 1979. She was promoting them because they were on sale on Kindle and Audiobook so I decided to support her and bought the audiobook of Being Ethel: In a World that loves Lucy (Amazon)

From the publisher: “1979 is getting on Piper Penn’s nerves. Struggling to survive past tragedies, she finds comfort in Old Hollywood movies in her native San Francisco. Seeing no reason to adhere to man-made rules after her first-hand look at the ultimate in hypocrisy, Piper does what she wants, and trouble follows.
An unexpected inheritance on a tiny Midwest island in the Straits of Mackinac provides an escape. The mandated stay at the island’s glorious Grand Hotel gives her spirits a much-needed boost, especially when she catches the eye of a handsome groundskeeper. Taking part as an extra during the filming of the island movie Somewhere in Time adds to her excitement about this turn in her life. When mysterious accusations and headstrong residents send her into a tailspin, she finds friendship from a quirky, I Love Lucy loving nun who challenges her embittered look at life and faith. Can Piper survive the baffling attempts to derail her inheritance before it’s too late or has she fallen for a well-planned ruse while falling in love?”

“What happens when you combine a love of Lucy, Nora Ephron, Old Hollywood, and the desire for true faith? You embark on an unforgettable 1979 journey to magical, Mackinac Island.”
– Author, Michele Olson, Being Ethel (In a world that loves Lucy

Sometimes an author reading the audiobook is a good thing, most notably in memoirs. But reading a fiction book is trickier because of characterizations that need to be made. I do have to say that Michele Olson narrating her own book was not a plus. She sounded like a 50-something woman, and the main character, Piper, is 23. Then, Piper meets a nun who is about 10 years older than her, and Olson makes her sound absolutely ancient, as if she were an older, retired nun in her 80’s. Bottom line–Olson is no narrator and should leave it to the professionals. Maybe if I’d read it instead of listening to it, I would have enjoyed it more.

I thought setting the book in 1979 was perfect when talking about Mackinac Island because one of mine and my husband’s favorite films, Somewhere in Time (BluRay) (DVD) (Amazon Prime) starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, was filmed on the island. Piper gets to be an extra on the film, so that was a nice touch. Otherwise, I really didn’t get a feel for the island. The book could have been set anywhere, albeit somewhere where automobile traffic is banned.

One big thing about this book, because it’s not advertised that way, is that this is a heavily Christian fiction book, with lots of discussions about God and Jesus and the Gospels. That’s fine if you’re expecting it, but if you’re not, it can be jolting. The references to I Love Lucy come mostly when Piper and the nun watch the reruns on TV and the nun points out all the ways you can take the situations Lucy gets herself into relate to a given gospel. The book also attempts to weave a mystery in with all this religious discussion, with obvious and unrealistic results.

This book just did not work for me on many levels. I like to support Wisconsin authors as much as possible, but this was a definite miss.

This is the 34th Audiobook I’ve listened to as part of my 2021 Audiobook Challenge.

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