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Publisher's Summary

Told in alternating perspectives by a varied and vocal cast of characters, Nussbaum pulls back the curtain to reveal the complicated and funny and tough life inside the walls of an institution for juveniles with disabilities. From Yessenia Lopez, who dreams of her next boyfriend and of one day of living outside those walls, to Teddy, a resident who dresses up daily in a full suit and tie, to Mia, who guards a terrifying secret, Nussbaum has crafted a multifaceted portrait of a way of life hidden from most of us.

In this isolated human warehouse on Chicago's South Side, friendships are forged, trust is built, and love affairs begin. And it's in their alliances that the residents ultimately find the strength to bond together and finally fight back against their mistreatment.

Told with humor and authenticity in voices that stay with you long past the last moments, Good Kings Bad Kings is at once strikingly original, baldly funny, and profoundly moving.

Performed by an ensemble cast, with Chris Delaine (Joanne Madsen), Lauren Fortgang (Michelle Volkmann), Emma Galvin (Yessenia Lopez), Alexander Cendese (Teddy Dobbs), David Ledoux (Ricky Hernandez), Karen Murray (Jimmie Kendrick), and Daya Mendez (Mia Oviedo).

©2013 Susan Nussbaum. Recorded by arrangement with Algonquin Books of Chapel hill, a Division of Workman Publishing Company, Inc. (P)2013 HighBridge Company

What the critics say

"This is fiction at its best. The story's sharp eye allows no one to take shelter, and it doesn't flinch, it is simply and breathtakingly honest. A stunning accomplishment." (Barbara Kingsolver)

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What listeners say about Good Kings Bad Kings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Jody L. Jordet
  • 2017-05-08

It was great . . . until the abrupt end!

Would you try another book from Susan Nussbaum and/or the narrators?

I loved the narrators -they brought the story to life - they were wonderful! I did like the book - REALLY liked it - until it ended so suddenly. I actually downloaded it from another audio book company, thinking my Audible recording maybe cut out. It did the same thing. Assuming the paper copy ends with chapter 48 and the words, "It was Ricky," then the ending of this book sucked. Like she forgot to remember to finish her thought. Another review said to be prepared to cry at the end . . . but nothing tear worthy at the end of mine. I was SO MAD it ended, but only because it was like in the middle of a thought. I just don't get it. Never been so disappointed in an ending in my life.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Mia was my favorite. Partly, her narration was excellent, but she also had an interesting story - although not sure what really happened before ILSE, because the book ended too soon.
I actually really liked the way the representative that brought in new kids (name forgotten) progressed through the story, too, until the abrupt end.

What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

So much LIFE and the ability to understand whose story is whose.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Shelley
  • 2014-03-15

Fantastic performances; moving and inspiring story

Where does Good Kings Bad Kings rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Because I serve people with developmental disabilities in my professional life, I was intrigued to listen to this award-winning book. Different narrators voice the different characters and do so with the liveliness of actual stage performances. I loved it!

What was one of the most memorable moments of Good Kings Bad Kings?

The whole book was well plotted and the little "reveals" about each character were all memorable.

Which character – as performed by the narrators – was your favorite?

I have to say I liked them all!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Lisa Ford
  • 2013-10-15

Story enhanced by wonderful audio production

I thoroughly enjoyed this audio selection. The story centers around disabled kids and staff in a nursing home set outside Chicago. The story is compelling, realistic and yet upbeat. Each chapter is narrated from a single point of view and the chapters rotate between different lead characters. The story progresses in a linear fashion but some of the most painful details are revealed after the fact by the speaker in the next chapter. The author reveals the flaws and foibles of the main characters but you love them and root for them anyway. The multi-narrator audio production was top notch. It really enhanced the experience and made the characters that much more real. I will remember this book for a long time to come.

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  • Amanda Sadler
  • 2020-10-18

Tough topic, great book

It will make you cry but your understanding will be broadened as well. Great read!

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  • R. Soltani
  • 2020-10-15

Great book

I loved this book. It really brought to light a subject that most people are unfamiliar with. I have a new appreciation now for the plight and the struggles of disabled youth and the urgent need to protect both their rights and their dignity. This story was very creative and each chapter kept me spellbound. I was disappointed when it ended.

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  • Elizabeth Harrison
  • 2017-04-03

Excellent

Amazing, realistic, heartbreaking and awakening account of institutionalization. must listen for anyone working in nursing homes, group homes or mental institutions

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  • Sarah Hoover
  • 2016-11-07

Excellent testimonial style narrative!

Reading this book for a disability studies college course. I really enjoyed it. the characters are wonderfully unique and their stories and relationships are interwoven. I would read this outside of a class setting for sure.

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  • dewdropvelvet
  • 2016-03-16

funny, original, painful and genuine picture painted

Difficult and challenging but good. Took me more than one try to really get into it. The voices are original. Funny in painful, awkward growth spurt ways. Tackles unlovability, unreliability, unresolved issues, and neglect from personal points of view. But it's not just about the lives of the people living in the ward, it's also about the good and bad people who work there. Sick people mistreated in the ward was a topic covered well by the author. I remember one girl in particular whose voice sticks with me.. She couldn't tell on her rapist, it was up to the counselors and nurses to put it together, as she was so afraid. I guess some things were a little difficult to listen to but only because the victims were more helpless, being mistreated by the people supposed to care for them. A lot of the kids in the ward felt abandoned, like their parents didn't want them because they were handicapped. Also, narration was good with many voices, all effective.

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  • Rachel
  • 2015-02-02

good short listen - offers a unique prospective on

good short listen - offers a unique prospective on living in an institution from every angel. Acept the patents wish would there was more from there pointe of view.

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  • RueRue
  • 2014-02-01

Excellent use of multiple narrators

If you could sum up Good Kings Bad Kings in three words, what would they be?

Social consciousness raising

What did you like best about this story?

I enjoyed the multiple narratives, although this did create an episodic story rather than one that flowed. It does not surprise me that the author is also a playwright. It was almost like listening to a reading of a script by the cast of actors.

Which character – as performed by the narrators – was your favorite?

All of the narrators were excellent. It would be difficult to select a favorite character, although I'd say Jessinia and Ricky were especially likable.