Time to add another entry to my list of podcast recommendations. The shows I have highlighted so far have ranged from shows that are informative and enlightening, to shows that provide discussions on important subjects, to shows that just make you laugh out loud. Not to brag, but that link has a pretty good selection so far.
However… say, it’s an afternoon when you don’t want to preoccupy your mind with educational stuff, discussions of great social import, or anything resembling fun and games. On top of that, your mind and hands are already preoccupied with the 9-to-5 work, and it’s not like you can just go to your living room and turn on some soap opera (yes, those shows still exist). It’s the kind of afternoon when you just want to curl up with a good book but, again, work has your attention.
When you’re busy with the workday grind and you want to follow a good story, the usual choice would be to listen to one of those audio books that are all the rage of late. Well, I confess that I don’t subscribe to any of those audio book sites (e.g. Audible). Admittedly, my books of choice are actually that: Books. Yes, I mean the kind with an actual cover, blurbs in the dust flap, and x-amount of pages. No, I’m not a Luddite.
Still, I’m a sucker for a good story, no matter what form it may take. And, yes, it includes the form of a podcast. Like, say, this one:
Alone: A Love Story is another production of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the source for several other podcasts I’ve already mentioned in this series. While those CBC shows actually originate on the radio, Alone is a straight-up podcast series. Well, it’s not so much a podcast series as it is one of those good books I was referring to above. And it’s not so much a book as it is a personal memoir that both captivates the listener and pulls at their heartstrings.
Yes, Alone: A Love Story is a book for the ears and not for the eyes. But to hear Michelle Parise tell it, it was almost the latter. Parise is a longtime producer for CBC, working mainly on programs for the public broadcaster’s radio networks. Parise notes in the bio at that very link that she’s written out her life in “short story form,” putting her thoughts and recollections into several journals over the years. Preserving those details and dialogues to paper allowed her to become specific with her personal details in Alone, which she began writing early in 2013. And, yes, she notes that Alone was almost going to be a book, i.e. the kind you’d find at the bookstore. But a fellow CBC producer, Veronica Simmonds, suggested to Parise that it’s less a novel or biography and more… well, her story. It’s that suggestion to let the story escape from the printed page that would lead to the Alone podcast, the producing and sound mixing are cared for by both Parise and Simmonds at CBC Toronto.
Since it’s Michelle Parise’s tale, obviously, the words and voice belong to her on Alone. And what is her tale, you ask? Well, first off, I should warn you that there are ***SPOILERS AHEAD*** in this paragraph and the next one. Parise’s tale in Alone is one that goes from the high hopes of romance to the despairs of heartbreak to the highs and lows of being, well, alone. It starts out with promise, as Michelle falls in love with a seemingly wonderful man named only “The Scientist.” (Alone uses a lot of nicknames to refer to characters; in fact, as I recall, the only other person referred to by name outside of Michelle herself is her daughter, Birdie.) Eventually, “The Scientist” becomes “The Husband,” but before too long he becomes “The Ex-Husband,” thanks to a little thing Michelle frequently calls “The Bomb” (i.e. his infidelity).
As befitting its name, “The Bomb” is a gigantic turning point in Alone, for it sends Michelle down a path of reeling emotions, despair, and loneliness. It includes push-and-pull moments with “The Ex-Husband”; some bad judgments (too much smoking is bad for you, Michelle); and more than a few nights out with friends that lead to hook-ups with more than a few guys, which lead to mornings in the arms of said guys. But that stream of men does lead to Michelle falling hard for, or at least becoming quite enamored with, a dashing man she refers to by shirt color. I won’t clue you in on the color of said shirt, suffice it to say that Michelle really, really enjoys telling you all about him in the second set of 10 episodes.
Throughout Alone, you get the sense that Veronica Simmonds’ advice to Michelle Parise to turn her tale from a paper book to an audio podcast were very wise words. There is quite a bit of audio accents in these 20 (so far) chapters. There’s not the “bonkers” type of audio effects you’d hear on your local “morning zoo” type of radio show. There are, though, perfect uses of the right music at the right moments. These audio accents perfectly set the tone and help communicate the emotion of the scene and the emotion Michelle is feeling at those moments. Whether it’s an actual song, just the mention of a song title, or even just audio of Michelle singing and playing her guitar, music is a big part of Alone. How big? Not one but two “mixtape” lists have been added to the show’s website.
Oh, speaking of the show’s website, note that Michelle Parise uses it to add some “stories behind the story.” She provides more references to music, background photos and videos, and side comments on the story as it progresses, including callbacks to previous chapters. If Alone were a motion picture or TV series, these would be the “DVD extras.” These stories are worth checking out, especially since they do provide listener assistance to a story that lays out its tale in a non-linear way in certain spots, especially in the early chapters (Parise says she’s a fan of Lost, so go figure).
As has been the case so far in my podcast recommendations, I would use this part of the post to recommend or highlight specific episodes of a podcast. I can’t do that here with Alone, for it’s a tale that should be heard (and downloaded) from Chapter 1 onward. Don’t you dare misconstrue that as a downgrade, for it’s not. Parise’s story really is one that deserves to be heard from the beginning. It is a winding story of love and lust, joy and heartbreak, loneliness and despair, happy decisions and bad judgement, ugly honesty and sweet confessions, and (to crib directly from the show’s tag line) “finding the courage to face the question mark of life, alone.” It’s a tale Parise tells with sweet sincerity and brutal honesty.
(Well, wait a minute… If I must select one segment of her tale, especially one that has that brutal honesty, it’s this excerpt from Chapter 14 in which Parise comments on not walking away from bad dates. Mind you, hers is a tale that takes place several years before the all-very-important #MeToo era, but she does encourage the world to “shut up and listen” to women’s tales of difficult dates with men.)
Some of you are thinking, oh, it’s just a memoir of some radio producer; why should we care? Well, I can counter that argument with these three words:
“Stick with me”
Stick with me. That is the phrase Michelle Parise uses to close one chapter of Alone: A Love Story and tease the next chapter. And with her use of weathered experiences and real honesty, you can’t help but stick with her. Not all of us have been married, had children, divorced, gone back on the dating scene, or have had a health scare. But the listener can likely sympathize, or at least empathize, with Michelle’s story. That’s how good she communicates her story on Alone. And you can’t help but stick with her… and perhaps reach through the headphones and tell her, “I know how you feel, Michelle; I’ve been there.”
There have been 20 episodes of Alone: A Love Story so far; the first 10 were released in one batch September of last year, while the second 20 were released last month. All 20 episodes can be heard through the show’s website or downloaded at this link. Oh, another spoiler alert: There is a hint in that 20th chapter of more chapters to come, though no release date for that 3rd season has been announced.
Yes, Alone: A Love Story is but one of several podcasts I recommend listening to. You can check out other recommendation links at this post. And don’t hesitate to use the comment section to offer your own recommendations. Thanks for reading.