At 26, Larry Weller thinks his future lies in flowers. He still lives at home, has a new career as a floral designer, and a girlfriend about whom he is somewhat ambivalent. What Larry is about to discover is that life is never a straightforward path. His girlfriend becomes pregnant. They marry and set off for their honeymoon in England where Larry stumbles upon what will become his greatest passion in life. He takes up the creation and construction of meticulous mazes, which leads him down blind alleys and dead ends, failed marriages and changing expectations. It all comes together in an unforgettable dinner party in this warm and witty coming-of-middle-age novel. Published four years after The Stone Diaries, Larry's Party won the UK's Orange Prize for fiction and is one of Carol Shields's most critically successful works. Published in numerous editions by Penguin, the book has now sold more than 100,000 copies in the United States alone. This audio recording, first released in audiocassette Canada in 1998, received wide critical acclaim in its original edition. Quill and Quire said that "this recording benefits from Thomson's cool, well-trained voice. There are no lilting cadences here, or perfectly affected accents, just immaculate timing and phrasing." Atlantic Books Today called this audio edition of Larry's Party "a quietly rhythmic, almost hypnotic reading. . . . Thomson, who advocates challenging theatre-goers, brings the same kind of respect for his audience to his interpretation." This new BTC edition, scheduled for US release in November, marks the first time this recording has been released in the US in any form and brings to life a work of complex fiction about anordinary guy whose appearance belies a truly human complexity.
A chronicle of one ordinary man's life as he searches, at first, bumblingly and inarticulately for happiness and the meaning of existence, this triumphant novel runs in delicious counterpoint to Shields's evocation of Daisy Stone's life in the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Stone Diaries. In following her male protagonist over five decades, Shields observes the changing social conventions, gender roles, vernacular idiosyncracies and moral constructs of the times, interpolating these details into the narrative with subtle wit and an unerring eye for telling details. She also delineates the stages of life as the body ages and the future offers only the "steady decline of limitless possibility," while the mind hopes for the solace of some universal truths. Born in 1950 into a blue-collar household in Winnipeg, Larry Weller becomes a floral designer for want of a better career goal. Aware of his lack of education, awkward and sexually timid (his eventual sexual awakening is both raunchy and funny), Larry is dimly conscious of another aspect of life beyond his parochial horizons. Only during his first honeymoon in England, willfully lost inside the maze at Hampton Court, does he get a glimmer that he might be more than "a man of limited imagination and few choices." When his fascination with shrubby labyrinths becomes a professional career, Larry moves into a wider world (and from Canada to the U.S. and back again) as a financially successful and internationally recognized maze builder. He also endures emotional traumas: the breakup of two marriages, estrangement from his son, midlife crisis and a catastrophic illness. Meanwhile, he is plagued with inchoate longings to understand the dimly perceived relationship between the mazes he constructs and "the undertow of something missing" in his existence. Shields offers snippets of Larry's journey through life in short chapters that often intersect and double back; a turn here, a repetition there. The pathway of her maze becomes clear only at the end, when Larry and his lover give a party to celebrate the coincidence of his two ex-wives arriving in Toronto. Evoked in a brilliant cascade of conversation in which the central question is "What's it like being a man in the last days of the 20th century?" the party provides Larry with epiphanic insight, and the reader with some delightful surprises. The novel glows with Shield's unsentimental optimism and her supple command of a sweetly ironic and graceful prose.