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When Madeline Was Young cover art

When Madeline Was Young

Written by: Jane Hamilton
Narrated by: Richard Poe
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Publisher's Summary

Jane Hamilton, award-winning author of The Book of Ruth and A Map of the World, is back in top form with a richly textured novel about a tragic accident and its effects on two generations of a family.

When Aaron Maciver's beautiful young wife, Madeline, suffers brain damage in a bike accident, she is left with the intellectual powers of a six-year-old. In the years that follow, Aaron and his second wife care for Madeline with deep tenderness and devotion as they raise two children of their own.

Narrated by Aaron's son, Mac, When Madeline Was Young chronicles the Maciver family through the decades, from Mac's childhood growing up with Madeline and his cousin Buddy in Wisconsin through the Vietnam War, through Mac's years as a husband with children of his own, and through Buddy's involvement with the subsequent Gulf Wars.

Jane Hamilton, with her usual humor and keen observations of human relationships, deftly explores the Maciver's unusual situation and examines notions of childhood (through Mac and Buddy's actual youth as well as Madeline's infantilization) and a rivalry between Buddy's and Mac's families that spans decades and various wars. She captures the pleasures and frustrations of marriage and family, and she exposes the role that past relationships, rivalries, and regrets inevitably play in the lives of adults.

Inspired in part by Elizabeth Spencer's Light in the Piazza, Hamilton offers an honest and exquisite portrait of how a family tragedy forever shapes and alters the boundaries of love.

©2006 Jane Hamilton (P)2006 Recorded Books, LLC

What the critics say

"In each surprising permutation, Hamilton offers fresh perspectives on the puzzles of time, memory, and consciousness, and keenly gauges the many shades of guilt and audacity, grief and sacrifice, tenacity and goodness." (Booklist)

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Samantha
  • 2006-08-28


I loved Hamilton's other books but this one took me over 2 hours to get into. At first I thought it was nothing but character studies. After 2 hours, the story slowly started to unfold and was easier and more enjoyable to listen to. If you're a baby boomer like me, you may recognize the references to the eras 50's - 80's. I didn't care for the author's voice - after awhile it grated on me. All in all I would say it's an unusual story with an unusual premise.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Juls
  • 2007-03-09


This is a good story..I enjoyed it. I recommend this...

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Pamela Harvey
  • 2011-02-01

Bad Narration

I wanted to like this book because I have always liked Jane Hamilton's work, and I was attracted by the story.

But the narrator was loud, scratchy-voiced, and not a relaxing sound at all! Especially when he tried to sing. I had to fast forward those portions. This was not someone I wanted to listen to while driving or working out or falling asleep.

Perhaps I'll try the print version.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Patricia B Tripoli
  • 2009-10-26

Worth It

I agree this was not your usual story line. It went back and forth between a variety of timelines. But the rich development of the family connections and relationships, showing the good and bad of people was true to life and interesting to hear.

I enjoyed the narration. He gave emphasis where it was needed and interesting intonations. I liked his voice characterizations.

One needs to be a child of the sixties, I guess, to appreciate the story. So go for it if that applies to you!!

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2009-05-11

No interest

This book starts off weird and just gets weirder. From the synopsis provided with the book, I expected something different. I'm only 3 hours in and I'm really uncertain as to whether or not I will bother to finish it. I'm not a fan of gratuitous inappropriate language and this book is choke full. Can't say I'm all that interested in what happens to Madeline.