TL;DR? Get the Audiobook of My Unexpected Life!

Martina Clark
6 min readJan 3, 2023

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My first book, My Unexpected Life: An International Memoir of Two Pandemics, HIV and COVID-19, was released in October 2021 as a print and eBook. To date, it’s won four awards and people seem to like it. But, not everyone can, or enjoys, reading print books so it has always been my plan to release this as an audiobook.

Today is that day! You can now get the audiobook of My Unexpected Life and listen to me narrate the book for you.

Cover art of the audiobook of My Unexpected Life available on Audible, iTunes, and Amazon.

Since the second half of 2020, I’ve had problems with my left eye. Post-COVID, I developed a membrane on my retina from the inflammation in my head after having COVID-19 early on in the pandemic. Initially, I just thought I needed a new prescription for glasses. I hadn’t heard of anyone having vision problems from COVID so I dismissed the warbly vision and waited until it was safe to go back to see my eye doctor in person. By the time I did see him, in late 2020, he was very concerned.

My eye doctor is fabulous and always as calm as anyone I’ve ever known. Not that day. He was clearly alarmed and called his colleague in–conveniently a specialist in all things retina–and together they informed me that if I didn’t have the epiretinal membrane removed, I could lose my vision in my left eye.

I like my left eye. I think it’s kind of cute.

By early March 2021, I had surgery on that eye. And it helped. Kinda. But as they’d warned me, I was likely to develop a cataract. Not your grandma’s cataract, no, I can’t do anything normal. This was a cataract that developed rapidly over months, clouding that less warbly vision into a general haze. In December of 2022, I had another surgery on that left eye to remove the speed-demon cataract and now I’m waiting on that to mend.

In the interim, I’m a winky, blinky, squinty girl with my left eye shut at most any given time of day.

I mention all of this to set up why I turned to audiobooks. To be sure, I’ve always loved audio productions whether radio shows, music, or the sounds of nature, but audiobooks have become my go-to. At first, I felt a little guilty. Like many, I suspect, I felt like I was cheating by not reading but rather listening to books. But the more books I read, the more I realized that audiobooks are their own art form. A well-narrated audiobook is an absolute joy to listen to. And, well, a poorly-narrated one, a painful thing to endure.

Among the growing volumes of audiobooks available to us in 2023, are the category of author-narrated memoirs and I’m here for it. Listening to an author narrate her own life story is like being transported in space to sharing a cup of tea or a glass of wine with them as they unfold the events of their life. One that comes quickly to mind is Madman in the Woods: Life Next Door to the Unabomber by Jamie Gehring. While listening I felt as if I got to know little Jamie as a girl all the way through to her adult self when she became a mom. And, of course, as the title would suggest, I learned a lot about Ted Kaczynski, the man we known commonly as the Unibomber. Through her narration, I could feel the emotions of someone who’d been in close proximity to this man and understood that while he did terrible things, he also did kind things, like painting rocks for the little neighbor girl down the way. I’m certain I could glean these emotions from the written book, but hearing them, brought them to life in an entirely new manner. Gehring’s book is stunning both for the content, but also for the humanity it brings to light.

The first audiobook I ever listened to (as far as I can remember) was Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. My sister and her family had been listening to it in the car when traveling around Europe on their way to visit me when I lived in Belgium. It particularly struck me as funny because I was an English speaker living in a French-speaking part of Belgium so I could very much relate. To be fair, I’ve read David Sedaris in print, as well, but because I’d first experienced his words as an audiobook, I now always hear his voice even when reading it to myself. The pleasure of his words is that much more hilarious thanks to audiobooks or, in this case, what was then a book-on-tape. Remember those things? Cassette tapes? Yeah, I’m old.

Christine M. Farrell — audiobook editor and engineer with Martina Clark, author of My Unexpected Life.

Another that took me by surprise was Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon. I was late to the game and only listened last year to this extraordinary memoir, but it blew me away. So good, so powerful, so honest. Similarly, Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land by Toni Jensen. That audiobook took me weeks to digest, long after the listening was over. I felt I was in the room with the author during the scenes she unfolded for my consideration. No matter how well-written a book is, it’s hard to feel like you’re another character on the page when you’re reading the words. Somehow listening to the narrator–particularly when the narrator is the author–feels more intimate, sometimes troublingly so. This is one job I do not believe AI can–or should–replace.

With both Carry and Madman in the Woods, I found myself holding my breath, fearing for the well-being of the author in her memoir. Without the weight of the book in my hands (or e-Reader), I’d forget that everything must have turned out okay or the book would be a biography since the author wouldn’t have been able to write it if they’d perished. Duh.

So, yeah. I’m a big fan of audiobooks read by excellent narrators.

I think of my father who went blind from macular degeneration and know that he would never have been able to read my book. Now, there are some salty sections, so that might be for the best, but he could have listened to my audiobook. And I think of so many other friends with eye problems who simply cannot read. Now, at last, they’ll be able to listen to my words.

Or my many, many, friends who simply do not enjoy reading either because English is not their first language or because they just don’t like to read. It happens. Now those people will also be able to hear my story.

Over the course of last fall, I worked with the wonderful Christine M. Farrell of Yarn Spinner Media who edited my audiobook to render it listening-worthy and who also coached and taught me along the way. I am grateful to her for her kindness and wisdom and for making my audiobook awesome. She is amazing!

Even if you’ve already read the book (thank you if you have, and please, would you write a review?), you might enjoy another run-through with me as the narrator. However it reaches you, I hope that my story holds meaning and that you come away from it knowing that you are not alone.

Martina Clark is the author of My Unexpected Life: An International Memoir of Two Pandemics, HIV and COVID-19 which is now available as an audiobook as well as in print on paper or on your favorite e-reader. She is still squinting as she writes this and hopes to be able to read print books again soon although she’ll never stop listening to audiobooks.

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Martina Clark

My book, My Unexpected Life: An International Memoir of Two Pandemics, HIV and COVID-19, published by Northampton House Press is available in print and audio.