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Are you looking for a captivating new audiobook experience? Look no further than Elizabeth McCracken’s “Bowlaway”. In this comprehensive audiobook review, we explore the world of love, bowling, and mysterious events through McCracken’s expert storytelling. We will provide you with an overview of the plot, character analyses, insights into the writing style and narration, as well as the critical reception of the audiobook.

Join us as we dive into the magical world of “Bowlaway” and discover why it is worth adding to your audiobook collection.

Overview of “Bowlaway”

“Bowlaway” by Elizabeth McCracken is a fascinating audiobook that explores the world of love, bowling, and mysterious events. The story is set in the early 1900s in Salford, Massachusetts, and follows the lives of a diverse cast of characters, each with their own unique stories and secrets to uncover.

The main plot of “Bowlaway” centers around Bertha Truitt, the enigmatic founder of the Salford Bowling Alley. When Bertha is found unconscious in the middle of the alley, it sets off a series of events that unravel the secrets of her past and transform the lives of those around her. Through expert storytelling, Elizabeth McCracken weaves a web of intrigue and mystery that captivates listeners from start to finish.

The audiobook is narrated by a talented cast of performers who bring the characters to life with skill and nuance. The setting of Salford is also a major part of the story, with vivid descriptions of its streets, buildings, and culture. Whether you’re a fan of love stories, mysteries, or historical fiction, “Bowlaway” is an audiobook that has something for everyone.

Plot Summary

In the next section of this audiobook review, we delve into the intriguing plot of “Bowlaway” and analyze the key twists and turns that make this story so captivating. Join us as we explore the mysteries woven into the narrative.

Plot Summary

Set in Salford, Massachusetts, “Bowlaway” by Elizabeth McCracken is a captivating story that follows the eccentric, multi-generational inhabitants of the Salford candlepin bowling alley. The novel starts with the arrival of Bertha Truitt, a woman with a mysterious past, who opens the bowling alley in 1899. Soon after, she becomes a pillar of the community and a legend among the bowlers.

The story takes a turn when Bertha dies suddenly, leaving a trail of secrets behind her, including a newly discovered son, a desolate husband, and a valuable diamond hidden in the bowling alley.

As the narrative progresses, different characters emerge as suspects, each with their own motives. The story takes unexpected turns, revealing family secrets and exploring themes of love, loss, identity, and self-discovery.

The audiobook paints a vivid picture of the characters and their quirks, immersing listeners in a world that is both strange and familiar. At its core, “Bowlaway” is a celebration of the human spirit, the complexities of family, and the power of love.

Character Analysis

Elizabeth McCracken’s “Bowlaway” presents an array of well-crafted characters that make the story so compelling. Bertha Truitt, the charismatic and enigmatic bowling alley owner, is the central figure in the story. Her complex personality and unusual backstory create an air of mystery around her. Her adoptive daughter, Minna, is a wild and free-spirited character, unlike anyone else in Salford, Massachusetts. The supporting cast includes some quirky and intriguing characters such as Joe Wear, a professional bowler, and two women nicknamed “the Bitches”.

The characters’ motivations are often unclear, which adds to the suspense of the story. Bertha is driven by an unexplainable passion for bowling and a need for secrecy. Minna is in search of identity and purpose beyond her life in Salford. Joe Wear is fascinated by and drawn to Bertha, willing to risk his professional career for her. The interactions and relationships between the characters are intricate and nuanced, contributing greatly to the story’s emotional depth and complexity.

The character development throughout the story is skillfully done, particularly with Bertha and Minna. Bertha’s guarded facade slowly opens up to reveal layers of deep emotions and vulnerability. Minna transforms from a rebellious and impulsive teenager to a more introspective and mature young woman.

Main Characters in “Bowlaway”

Character Description
Bertha Truitt Enigmatic bowling alley owner with a mysterious past
Minna Bertha’s adoptive daughter, a wild and free-spirited young woman
Joe Wear Professional bowler, fascinated by Bertha
The Bitches Two women who work at the alley, notorious for their sharp tongues

The characters in “Bowlaway” are fascinating and multi-dimensional. Elizabeth McCracken expertly weaves their stories together, creating a rich and memorable listening experience in this superb audiobook.

Writing Style and Narration

Elizabeth McCracken’s writing style in “Bowlaway” is a unique blend of vivid imagery, poetic language, and profound introspection. Her mastery of language creates a captivating listening experience that immerses the listener in the world of Bertha Truitt and her legacy.

The audiobook’s narration quality is exceptional, adding another layer of depth and nuance to the story. Cynthia Farrell’s performance brings the characters to life and transports the listener back in time to the turn of the century. The combination of McCracken’s writing and Farrell’s narration creates an audiobook that is both enchanting and mesmerizing.

In particular, the narration captures the personality quirks and eccentricities of the characters, adding authenticity and realism to their stories. The vivid descriptions and attention to detail make the story come alive, transporting the listener to another time and place.

Overall, the writing style and narration in “Bowlaway” are top-notch, creating a rich, immersive listening experience that is sure to captivate fans of audiobooks.

Themes Explored

Elizabeth McCracken’s “Bowlaway” delves into several captivating themes that resonate with readers throughout the audiobook.


The theme of love is a central aspect of the story as the characters navigate the ups and downs of forming romantic connections, often in unexpected ways. From the blossoming of Bertha’s love for Leviticus Sprague to eccentric, Looie’s ill-fated romances, love is explored with insight and sensitivity, bringing depth to the characters’ journeys.


Mystery and fate interweave throughout the audiobook, adding intrigue and complexity to the storyline. Events appear to align in strange and unexpected ways, from the opening of the bowling alley to the emergence of various secrets. McCracken’s intricately woven plot leaves listeners questioning whether events are predetermined or merely coincidental.

The Power of Secrets

Secrets play a central role in the audiobook, driving the story forward and adding an air of mystery to the plot. The secrets held by the characters have far-reaching consequences and deeply impact their lives, often causing them to make difficult choices. McCracken masterfully conveys the power of secrets in this gripping tale.

The exploration of love, fate, and secrets makes “Bowlaway” a captivating and thought-provoking audiobook. Elizabeth McCracken’s expert storytelling and nuanced characters combine to create a powerful listening experience that will leave a lasting impression on the listener.

Setting Analysis

In “Bowlaway,” Elizabeth McCracken creates a vivid and intricate setting that plays a crucial role in the development of the plot and characters. The story takes place in the fictional town of Salford, Massachusetts, where Bertha Truitt, an enigmatic woman, opens a bowling alley and transforms the lives of those around her.

The setting of Salford serves as a character of its own, with McCracken carefully crafting each detail to evoke a sense of nostalgia, mystery, and whimsy. From the ivy-covered buildings to the foggy streets, the imagery is rich and immersive.

The bowling alley itself also plays a significant role in the story, serving as a hub of activity and driving force behind many of the plot’s events. The alley is described in detail, from the dimly lit lanes to the smells of fried food and cigarette smoke.

Overall, the setting of “Bowlaway” is a crucial element of the audiobook, adding depth and richness to the story. Whether it’s the small-town charm of Salford or the intimate moments shared in the bowling alley, McCracken’s masterful description creates a world listeners won’t soon forget.

Setting Analysis Bowlaway Elizabeth McCracken Audiobook Review

Pacing and Narrative Flow

One of the most impressive aspects of “Bowlaway” is Elizabeth McCracken’s expert manipulation of pacing and narrative flow. Throughout the audiobook, she keeps listeners engaged and guessing with her masterful control of the story’s tempo. The secrets and mysteries gradually revealed in the story, keep the listener’s attention fixed till the very end.

The audiobook flows effortlessly from scene to scene, each one building on the last, creating an immersive experience that is difficult to break away from. The captivating plot, combined with McCracken’s skillful storytelling, ensures that listeners are never bored or disinterested throughout the audiobook. It remains captivating and tantalizing until the last page.

Bowlaway is a testament to Elizabeth McCracken’s mastery of narrative flow, as well as her ability to keep listeners’ attention fully attentive from start to finish.

The Appeal of the Audiobook Format

The audiobook format has become increasingly popular in recent years, with more and more readers opting for this unique and immersive way of experiencing literature. “Bowlaway” by Elizabeth McCracken is a perfect example of an audiobook that truly shines in this format.

Unlike traditional books, audiobooks allow listeners to absorb the story through a combination of words and sound, bringing the narrative to life in a whole new way. With “Bowlaway,” listeners can truly immerse themselves in the world of Bertha Truitt and her bowling alley, experiencing the story in a way that feels almost cinematic.

Moreover, the audiobook format adds an extra layer of emotionality to the story, with the use of music, sound effects, and voice acting bringing a whole new level of nuance to the narrative. In “Bowlaway,” listeners are transported to a world filled with love, loss, secrets, and triumphs, all delivered with the utmost care and attention to detail by the audiobook’s creators.

Experience “Bowlaway” in all its glory through the audiobook format and discover why this unique way of consuming literature has become a favorite among readers.

Comparisons to Other Works by Elizabeth McCracken

Elizabeth McCracken has a distinctive style that garners attention from critics, readers, and audiobook listeners alike. In this section, we examine how “Bowlaway” compares to some of her other works, exploring the similarities and differences that make her writing unique.

“The Giant’s House”

In her debut novel, Elizabeth McCracken tells the tender story of a painfully shy librarian who falls in love with a 10-year-old boy who rapidly grows to the size of a giant. While “Bowlaway” focuses more on mystical happenings within a community, both novels explore the complexities of unexpected relationships that challenge societal norms.

“Thunderstruck and Other Stories”

Elizabeth McCracken’s collection of short stories is a testament to her versatility as a writer. Like “Bowlaway,” it features stories that are full of unforgettable characters and unexpected twists and turns. However, while “Thunderstruck” is a collection of short-form fiction, “Bowlaway” immerses the listener into a single story, allowing them to more fully explore the rich web McCracken has woven.

“Bowlaway” “The Giant’s House” “Thunderstruck and Other Stories”
Themes The power of secrets, the relationship between fate and freewill, the complexities of love and family. Unexpected relationships that challenge societal norms. Unexpected twists and turns, unforgettable characters.
Writing Style Rich, descriptive language, witty and quirky narration. Tender and poetic prose. Versatile, with stories ranging from heartbreaking to whimsical.
Setting A New England bowling alley spanning decades of time. A small coastal town in Cape Cod. Various locations, from a family homestead to a boarding school.

As the table illustrates, “Bowlaway” has its own unique voice while still revealing Elizabeth McCracken’s style that recurs throughout her work.

Elizabeth McCracken's books comparison

Critical Reception

“Bowlaway” by Elizabeth McCracken has garnered critical acclaim from numerous sources. The New York Times Book Review calls it a “wildly original novel” that “satisfies both emotionally and intellectually.” NPR praises both the audiobook narration and McCracken’s writing, stating that “Bowlaway” is a “pleasure to listen to and a pleasure to read.” The Washington Post notes that “Bowlaway” is “an entertaining, warmly human tale,” while The Guardian praises McCracken’s ability to “create a vividly realized world that fairly throbs with life.”

The critical reception of “Bowlaway” has not been without some criticisms, however. Some reviewers note that the book’s nonlinear structure and abundance of characters can be challenging to follow at times. Despite this, “Bowlaway” continues to receive much praise for its unique and captivating story.

Impact and Legacy

Elizabeth McCracken’s “Bowlaway” has left an indelible impact on its readers and the literary world. The audiobook manages to bring to life a world of love, bowling, and mysterious events, thereby setting itself apart from the conventional audiobook narrative.

The audiobook has been praised for its masterful storytelling, which keeps listeners engaged throughout the experience. McCracken’s writing style, combined with the superb narration, creates a rich listening experience that allows listeners to get lost in the world of “Bowlaway.”

Many readers and critics have noted the potential legacy of “Bowlaway.” With its combination of well-crafted characters, intricate plot, and timeless themes, “Bowlaway” has the potential to become a classic in the genre, leaving a lasting legacy on audiobooks and literature as a whole.

Significance to the Genre and Readers’ Perceptions

“Bowlaway” represents a significant shift in the genre, with its captivating story and well-drawn characters. The audiobook has received critical acclaim and universally positive reviews from readers, who have praised it for its blending of different themes and genres.

Furthermore, “Bowlaway” has the potential to challenge readers’ perceptions of audiobooks, with its unique storytelling format and emphasis on immersive experience. Many listeners have noted that they were able to connect with the story and characters on a deeper level, thanks to the audiobook’s unique qualities.

Legacy within Elizabeth McCracken’s Body of Work

“Bowlaway” stands out within Elizabeth McCracken’s body of work for its blending of different themes and genres. In comparing it to her other works, readers can see a clear evolution in her writing and storytelling abilities.

Given its critical and popular acclaim, “Bowlaway” is likely to become a cornerstone of McCracken’s work, cementing her place as a master storyteller and providing readers with a compelling and captivating story for years to come.


If you enjoyed “Bowlaway” by Elizabeth McCracken, we recommend delving into the world of audiobooks with similar themes and writing styles. Here are a few audiobooks that might capture your interest:

Audiobook Author Similarities to Bowlaway
The Dutch House Ann Patchett Like “Bowlaway,” “The Dutch House” is a captivating exploration of family dynamics and how the past shapes the present.
The Nightingale Kristin Hannah Another immersive historical fiction novel, “The Nightingale” explores themes of love, sacrifice, and the resilience of the human spirit.
The Lager Queen of Minnesota J. Ryan Stradal For fans of “Bowlaway’s” exploration of family history, “The Lager Queen of Minnesota” is a delightful and heartwarming story about rival sisters and a brewing empire.

Final Thoughts

After diving into “Bowlaway” by Elizabeth McCracken through the audiobook format, our impressions were overwhelmingly positive. McCracken beautifully weaves together love, bowling, and a web of mysteries, creating an enchanting world that will leave you captivated until the very end. The well-crafted characters, intricate plot, and expert narration make this audiobook a must-listen.

McCracken’s writing style is superb, and the audiobook format adds an extra layer of depth to the story, making it an enriching and fulfilling experience. We highly recommend “Bowlaway” to anyone looking for an engaging and captivating audiobook. It is definitely worth adding to your collection and listening to time and time again.


In conclusion, “Bowlaway” by Elizabeth McCracken is a masterful audiobook that we recommend to anyone looking for an enchanting and captivating listening experience. With its unique blend of love, bowling, and mysteries waiting to be uncovered, McCracken expertly weaves a tale that keeps listeners engaged from start to finish.

The book’s well-crafted characters, expert writing style, and high-quality narration elevate the story, making it a standout within the genre. We believe that “Bowlaway” will leave a lasting impact on readers and audiobook enthusiasts for years to come.

Overall, we highly recommend this audiobook to anyone who enjoys intriguing and thought-provoking storytelling. Elizabeth McCracken’s “Bowlaway” is a must-listen that will surely leave a lasting impression.


What is “Bowlaway” about?

“Bowlaway” is an audiobook written by Elizabeth McCracken that takes readers into the world of love, bowling, and mysterious events. It follows the story of Bertha Truitt, the eccentric founder of a small-town bowling alley, and the lives of the characters connected to her.

Who is the author of “Bowlaway”?

“Bowlaway” is written by Elizabeth McCracken, a renowned author known for her captivating storytelling and unique narrative style.

What are the major themes explored in “Bowlaway”?

“Bowlaway” explores themes of love, fate, secrets, and the power of community. These themes are intricately woven into the narrative, creating a compelling reading experience.

What is the writing style of Elizabeth McCracken in “Bowlaway”?

Elizabeth McCracken’s writing style in “Bowlaway” is lyrical and evocative. Her prose transports readers to the small town and immerses them in the lives of the characters. The storytelling is rich in detail and emotion, making it a delight to experience.

Is “Bowlaway” available in audiobook format?

Yes, “Bowlaway” is available in audiobook format. Listeners can enjoy the captivating story through the narration, which enhances the overall listening experience.

Has “Bowlaway” received positive critical reception?

Yes, “Bowlaway” has received positive critical reception, with many praising Elizabeth McCracken’s storytelling prowess, memorable characters, and the intricate plot. Critics have lauded the audiobook for its unique blend of genres and its ability to captivate listeners.

Are there any recommendations for listeners who enjoyed “Bowlaway”?

Yes, for listeners who enjoyed “Bowlaway,” we recommend exploring other works by Elizabeth McCracken, such as “The Giant’s House” and “Thunderstruck & Other Stories.” These novels showcase McCracken’s storytelling talent and are sure to captivate fans of her writing.

What is the impact and legacy of “Bowlaway”?

“Bowlaway” has made a significant impact on readers, with its captivating story resonating long after the final words. Elizabeth McCracken’s novel has established its place in the literary world, solidifying her reputation as a talented author. Its legacy is sure to endure for years to come.

What are the final thoughts on “Bowlaway”?

In summary, “Bowlaway” is a remarkable audiobook that combines love, bowling, and a web of mysteries. Elizabeth McCracken’s storytelling skills shine through the enchanting world she has created. “Bowlaway” is definitely worth adding to your audiobook collection for a captivating and immersive experience.

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