The Return Audiobook by Brad Boney Narrated by Charlie David











Dreamspinner Presents:


Music. Topher Manning rarely thinks about anything else, but his day job as a mechanic doesn’t exactly mesh with his rock star ambitions. Unless he can find a way to unlock all the songs in his head, his band will soon be on the fast track to obscurity.

Then the South by Southwest music festival and a broken-down car drop New York critic Stanton Porter into his life. Stanton offers Topher a ticket to the Bruce Springsteen concert, where a hesitant kiss and phantom vibrations from Topher’s cell phone kick off a love story that promises to transcend ordinary possibility.

My Review

This is two stories which intertwine into one.

First, Topher Manning is a mechanic by day and musician by night. He works at the same garage as Travis (from The Nothingness of Ben). One day he’s at work when a guy with car problems strolls in with a spare ticket to the Bruce Springsteen concert – one of Topher’s all time favorite bands. The guy, Stanton Porter, offers Topher the chance of a lifetime (floor seats at the concert in exchange for a ride) and they go together to enjoy the show.

The two have both nothing and everything in common. Stanton is 50 something, from New York, a music critic with an Ivy League education and an amazing affinity for all things music, especially pop-music. Topher is a country boy, 26, no college whatsoever, plays music in a rock-n-roll band, and an affinity for all things music, especially pop-music.

They essentially click, and though Topher has never had a “gay” thought in the world, he finds himself compelled to kiss Stanton in the middle of “Thunder Road”. This spurs the beginning of a strange and sometimes bewildering romance between the two that seems to cross state lines, age lines and time lines.

The second story is also about Stanton, but a 24 year-old Stanton, who falls in love with Hutch. Hutch is a trust-fund child who has been mostly “disowned” for being gay and a musician by his upper-crust family. He and Stanton fall almost instantly in love and they too share a love of music, though both have the education and a group of close knit friends in common.

Every other chapter switches between the older and the younger Stanton’s love stories. Needless to say there are some major tie-ins and co-incidences that are mind-boggling, and in a way it is both an epic tragedy and an amazing love-story rolled into one.

I can’t really explain much more about this story without giving too much away – and that would spoil the surprises. However, know this: there are some “paranormal” or “otherworldly” elements to this story like there was in The Nothingness of Ben which will have you riveted to your seat. Though the flash-backs (Hutch’s story) are amazingly difficult to read, they are also so touching and heart-warming that you won’t want to skip or even skim them.

Because the current story includes so many characters we’ve seen before, I recommend reading all three books to truly appreciate this story. I’d recommend either this order: TNOB, Return, Slugger, TNOB OR Return, Slugger, Ben.

Both Hutch’s and Topher’s stories are stories about living your dream and fighting for what you want. Stanton remains the constant. Though he, too, has to face demons and confront homophobic parents and in-laws, he serves as the anchor for both men.

Hutch’s story takes place in the early 1980s, when the AIDS epidemic was just beginning to take victim after victim, so it’s also a lesson in history. A glimpse at what it might have been like to live through the early days of AIDS. It’s so very hard to read, but also so important to understanding just how far we’ve come since then.

The secondary characters are so vivid and important in this book that at times they seem to take over the story. However, this does in no way detract from the main story line and only adds to the main story.

Origninally, when I had read The Nothingness of Ben, I was underwhelmed. I liked it (see my review on this site) but didn’t love it. Then when I got the chance to review The Eskimo Slugger I noted that it was a part three of the series, so I bought The Return to “catch up”. WOW! Was I ever glad for that. The Return is easily the best of the three books. It is also the longest (twice as long as the other two) and it’s hard for me to say, but I almost think it would be best read first, even though some things may show up out of sequence.

Now, after having read all three, I had to go back to re-read Ben and boy what a difference that makes. It’s still the weakest of the three but I have a new appreciation for it and love it a whole lot more.

When I got to the point in Return where I kind of figured things out, I got mad and had to set the book aside. After all, I wanted Topher for Stanton and was not pleased at all to hear about Hutch. However, the story line itself is so intriguing, the writing is so amazing, that I persisted. When I saw that it had an audiobook version out as well, I started listening as a way to help me get more involved in the story. That (explained here in a bit) sealed the deal and I absolutely fell in love.

For anyone with a fondness of music, you will find this book amazing, Brad has filled it with music trivia.

I highly recommend this book and give it 6 of 5 hearts.


First let me say that I am a Charlie David fan. I have always enjoyed his narrations, I like his voice, find his performances engaging and appealing and always a dependable choice for a narrator.

This narration is hands down his best work (as far as I have observed). He does absolutely AMAZING things with the many, many characters. He has subtle accents, moments of intense emotion, moments of giddiness and drunkenness, AND he can sing! He sings two songs in this narration and they are fabulous!

It is obvious to me that when you combine an author with the talent that Brad Boney has with the right narrator, magic ensues. This is one of the cases where I can’t emphasize enough that this book should absolutely be listened to. It was an experience far, far above the normal and I was completely entranced.

I give the audiobook a 6 of 5 hearts.

Overall 6 of 5 hearts – this book was both heartbreaking and heart-warming that I couldn’t stop and listened to all 11 plus hours over one very long, long night and the book hangover I got was totally, absolutely worth it.