The Understory

the understory

The Understory

By: Elizabeth Leiknes

Narrated by: Karyn O’Bryant

GoodReads Summary:

Story Easton knows the first line of every book, but never the last. She never cries, but she fakes it beautifully. And at night, she escapes from the failure of her own life by breaking into the homes of others, and feeling, for a short while, like a different, better person. But one night, as an uninvited guest in someone’s empty room, she discovers a story sadder than her own: a boy named Cooper Payne, whose dream of visiting the Amazon rainforest and discovering the moonflower from his favorite book, Once Upon a Moonflower, died alongside his father. For reasons even she doesn’t entirely understand, Story decides that she will help Cooper and his mother. She will make his dream come true. When the decision is made, the lives of other broken people start to come together: Hans Turner, the door-making magician who can’t shut the door on his past; Martin Baxter, the author of Cooper’s beloved book, who wrote it with the daughter he misses every day; and Claire Payne, Cooper’s mother, struggling to keep her son sheltered from the anger that threatens to consume her. The Understory is a magical, moving, funny, and poignant story of failure and success; of falling apart and rebuilding; and of coincidences that never really are. Part comedy, part drama, and part fairy tale, Elizabeth Leiknes’s second novel is a wonder you won’t soon forget.

I was provided this audiobook at no charge by the author, publisher, and/or narrator in exchange for an unbiased review via

I can’t say I was transported to another world while listening to this book. I can’t say it moved me as it apparently has others (see the 5 star reviews). What I can say is that it is a unique combination of events put together in such a way as to be on the edge of enthralling. I simply couldn’t stop listening.

Story Easton certainly grows and changes for the better. This is something that current writers are seeming to forget: that protagonists aren’t supposed to be the same at the end of the book as they are at the beginning. We read to escape, yes, of course. We read to peek into the lives of others. (BTW, Story takes that idea to the extreme by sneaking into the homes of others. We should understand that desire even if we never follow through.) Yet, ultimately, when we read, we should see that it is possible to learn, to grow, to change as a person. (OK, so the villains only seem to grow more villainous most times. That doesn’t always apply to the protagonist saturated in the well of goodness.)

But Story isn’t the only one who grows and changes. It’s as though the mere ghost of her presence affects those around her and vice versa.

I can say that this is one story fit for all ages. I can say that what the blurb teases, the book follows through without disappointment. I can also say, this book is worth more than the simply enjoyment a novel usually brings and there are depths there to explore.

It is possible that I will read/listen to this book again and find something I’ve missed which will enthrall me just a bit more.


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