Claire-Dee Lim

writer, teacher, traveler, and lazy gardener

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Prick Up Your Ears

For you audiobook lovers, here are some recent standouts. I’m recommending them not just because the stories are engaging, fascinating, and heartrending. They have so much more going on in the form of using multiple narrators! Now I’ve written before about how a mediocre narrator can sink an otherwise wonderful story. Where these three audiobooks shine is in the casting of a distinct and skillful voice talent for each character. This not only adds to the character’s point of view, it enhances the storytelling, and practically quadruples the entertainment value!

My latest favorites:

2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

In the year 2140, global warming has caused the polar ice caps to melt thus raising coastal water levels by 50 feet. Portions of New York City are underwater and what remains is now an intricate canal system, like a “super Venice.” Well-heeled New Yorkers now live in skyscrapers and the less fortunate squat in crumbling, water-logged structures from midtown to Battery Park. The cast of ten characters weave a story that mixes socioeconomic commentary, technological foreshadowing with plenty of sardonic New York attitude. I’d say the book is more futurist fiction than science fiction. The narrators are stellar and bring lots of humor to this watery world.


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Where are multiple narrators best suited? In an epistolary novel, of course! Shaffer and Barrows’s story is centered around a smart and spirited heroine, and the formidable members of a book group (of the title) formed during the WWII German occupation of the Isle of Guernsey–located in the English Channel. The tale is told in moving detail about the impact of the occupation on the characters’ lives through a series of letters. There’s lots of history, drama, charm, and romance, rendered with nuance by a strong cast. The Netflix movie is pretty captivating too.


Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

This one really falls into the sci-fi category. The first novel of a trilogy, the series is about a community–the ancestors of an expedition from Earth–that live on a sunless planet. They long for the day when they’ll be rescued and returned “home” to Earth. Beckett has created a fascinating world of mythmaking and language — where the audiobook really excels! Narrators perform with various British accents indicating class structures as well as clever wordplay to depict this future-primitive planet.


If you have any audiobook recommendations with lots of narrators, let me know!


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Tidying Up: More Than A Clean Garage

In my effort to lead a minimalist lifestyle, I’ve been falling into a cyberhole–specifically watching lots of YouTube videos. From decluttering, tossing, photo organizing, drawer porn, to creating your own capsule clothing collection (is it really possible to only wear 30 items, including accessories, per season?!), these videos offer the promise of leading a serene life in a totally white kitchen with nothing on the counters except a bowl of limes, for that pop of color, and a sparse closet of black and white clothing on blonde wood hangers. At some point, you have to stop watching, get brutal and dive in.

It’s really not difficult to de-junk closets and a garage if you embrace the Marie Kondo of it all. That old lawn mower sparks more despair than joy, especially since we removed our lawn and created a xeriscape years ago. Until I got to the shoeboxes of letters and postcards I’d received over the decades. Before email and texting, we wrote letters. Remember that time? Handwritten letters filled with stories, anecdotes, and humor. And the emotion is incredibly poignant, honest, and so drama filled. As I started sorting through these gems from my past, I laughed out loud, got teary, and marveled at the effort placed in these missives.

Before I tucked into the organizing task, I had a plan: to keep the best letters and toss the rest. But once I started … well, could I really throw away the love letters from long-gone boyfriends and long-distance romances? These scribbled out pronouncements of love and detailed descriptions of everyday tedium on lined notebook paper? Long-distance phone calls were really expensive back then, so we had to keep our loved ones and friends filled in on the minutiae to keep the “relating” part of the relationship going.

I did manage to toss some letters from high school and travel pen pals; all filled with angst about homework, restrictive parents, and college applications. I felt no nostalgia for that time in my life however, I kept a few from the summer after 8th grade. I was 13 going on 14, puberty hormones were raging and no surprise, boys were the hot topic. My best friend at the time wrote me while I was away at music camp. She talked about going to the movies at the multiplex with two boys she and another friend liked. They saw Jaws for $2!!, then attempted to sneak into these horror “classics,”  Bugs and Sssssss, the same evening. Who sees double features these days let along three movies in one evening?!

Her description of the evening was so vivid and detailed down to the seating arrangements. Who sat next to whom! This stuff mattered to teenage girls!

Not only did this letter catapult me back to that summer but it also reminded me that letters and cards are records of our lives. While some letters were cringe-worthy and painful to read (particularly those from college friends who never got off the party train and who are now deceased), most were beautiful expressions of friendship, shared experiences, and love … all sparking joy.


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The Mourning Dove Whisperer

My mother, Barbara, is known for being skilled at many things. To name a few … she’s an incredible cook (her flan is perfection), an expert gardener (we affectionately call her the Garden-ator) and a fierce tennis player and bowler. Now we can add bird whisperer to the list. Here’s a guest post from my father about another of her impressive skills.

The Mourning Dove Whisperer by Paulino Lim Jr.

For five years now in Spring, Barbara has been running an Airbnb for doves. The bnb is a brown plastic pot filled with leaves and twigs, hanging from the west beam of the pergola. The dove “guests” come in pairs, the smaller dove about to lay eggs. Barbara watches them through the sliding glass doors while working on the computer on the desk facing the garden.

The doves flit about in the garden, the water fountain, and other hanging plants before trying on the nest. They may be called birth tourists, like pregnant foreigners giving birth to babies to gain U.S. citizenship. Each season the Airbnb averages three births, with twins each birth. In five years there have been only two failures: one with both babies dying because the male pigeon disappeared, and the other with only one egg hatching. The offspring become citizens of the garden.

Backyard oasis and a peaceful getaway.

Barbara would open the door and greet the doves in a falsetto voice, “Good morning. How are you?” She talks to them, and they no longer fly away from her. As soon as the doves vacate the nest, she removes the detritus and prepares it for the next pair. She recognizes some as returnees. This season two sets of doves had hatchlings; a couple more pairs might show up before Spring ends.

Something unusual happened this year. The backyard pot was occupied so resourceful doves made a home for themselves in the front hanging pot.

Clearly, the “guests” give Barbara’s accommodations five-star reviews. No wonder they are so eager to come stay.


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