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Ray vs the Meaning of Life

Narrated by: Kevin Clay
Length: 7 hrs and 47 mins
Categories: Fiction, Humour
4.5 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Summary

Grandma's last will and testament names Ray to inherit the trailer park. It's a million-dollar estate with one hitch: To prove he's not as aimless as he seems, Ray must discover the meaning of life by the end of the month. (She left the answer in an envelope.) If he fails, the camp goes to his estranged family. 

How does anyone find the meaning of life while running a park full of misfit miners, would-be truck racers, and one demanding little girl? There's a bear, too. A grizzly. Maybe that'll help?  

©2018 Michael F Stewart (P)2018 Michael F Stewart

Critic reviews

"Booby-trapped with guns, grizzly bears, and homemade fireworks, the cartoonish park setting skillfully gives wheels to a larger, more intriguing philosophical question.... A tale spins its answer to an age-old question into an inclusive, hilarious, and thought-provoking yarn." (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

"Ray vs The Meaning of Life will have readers rolling their eyes in mock horror, laughing out loud, and asking themselves about the meaning in their own lives. For an author to take readers from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again shows both a willingness to take risks with his writing and an incredible understanding of his audience. Highly Recommended." (CM: Canadian Review of Materials)

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Profile Image for Midwestbonsai
  • Midwestbonsai
  • 04-01-19

Inspiring quirky satire that sucks you in

This story pulled me in right from the start when Ray recounts the unfortunate events that led to grandma’s death. Much to the chagrin of the rest of his dysfunctional family, Grandma has stipulated in her last will that Ray will be the sole beneficiary of her substantial inheritance provided he discovers the meaning of life within 30 days. No easy task for a teenager who spends most of his time in the world of online gaming. Fortunately, Ray is aided in his quest by self-help/life coach Dalen Anders. What a character he was!

At the beginning, Ray’s spiteful family made me angry and sad, so much so that I was hesitant whether I wanted to continue. I’m glad I did because it was fantastic how Michael F Stewart allowed each character to evolve and change slowly throughout the story. Although told from the first-person perspective of 17-year-old Ray and written in a teenage style, this young adult coming-of-age story should appeal to a wide audience. During his journey to find the meaning of life Ray comes across some insightful advice and universal truths. I actually added the eBook once I had listened to this because there were several quotes I wanted to highlight. However, you don’t need to be into self-help books or similar to enjoy this story.

I have had the pleasure of listening to several books narrated by Kevin Clay recently. With this one, he has turned me into a huge fan. Voicing the range of characters in this story, from the persistent little girl to teenagers, to rough rednecks, to upright Dalen and wise, old grandma can’t have been an easy feat, but Kevin Clay made each character sound credible and memorable. His timing was spot on. There were no problems with the production of the audio.

Great for teenagers and adults alike. Recommended if you are looking for an engaging, quirky satire that will make you laugh out loud but will also inspire you to reflect on the important things in your life.

Audiobook was provided for review by the author/narrator/publisher.
Please find this complete review and many others at my review blog.
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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Hall Ways
  • 01-10-18

THIS is what a YA book is meant to be!

When this title appeared on my radar, I hesitated to jump on board for a review. I wasn’t sure about the title or the Monty Python-ish cover. Yet, there was something… I thought the premise of Ray Vs the Meaning of Life sounded good, and I was craving a YA book, so I dove in and never came up for air until the book was done. The story, the characters, and the storytelling are all FABULOUS, and the narration is perfection, and I am totally fangirling over this book. This is what a YA book should be – authentic, humorous, and alive with people and places and ideas that stick to the ribs and make the reader want to do better.

“The only thing I know is that caring for a trailer park is not the meaning of life.”

From the opening scene (cue Monty Python again: “I’m not dead yet!”), readers will be laughing at the dark humor of Grandma’s demise. This pivotal event, well…series of events, are what set the stage for the rest of the book as Ray and his family deal with Grandma’s final Will and Testament and required hoop-jumping – namely, Ray must identify the meaning of life to get his substantial inheritance. Granny was no dummy and knew Ray would need some help, and so she spent a sizable chunk of money hiring life-coach guru, Dalen Anders.

“If I see farther than others, it’s only because I stand on the shoulders of those wiser than myself. No teacher relies on what they figure out themselves. Wisdom is wisdom. Second-hand wisdom is like second-hand gold. It holds whatever value is ascribed by its holder.”

Dalen Anders! His lines are some of the cheesiest and most fabulous in the book. Dalen is one of my favorite characters, and it is refreshing that Dalen, as well as other adults in the story, are integral to Ray’s life and his growth. They are all marvelously flawed but realistic characters that enrich the story where so many other YA books omit, downplay the importance of, or represent adults as idiots.

“I wear a clean pair of jean shorts with paint spatter and an unstained but moderately malodorous tee-shirt with a Dalek on the front. Under it are the words You are irrelevant.”

Author Michael F. Stewart has the gift for painting perfect snapshots of life and people in his rich, colorful, and humor-infused descriptions. Stewart is an outstanding storyteller, and at its core, Ray Vs the Meaning of Life is a beautiful story because what happens in Ray’s life is the human experience for all of us. Ray’s quest to find the meaning of life has an impact on everyone else’s lives, and so Grandma’s final directive ends-up helping everyone else figure out what’s important in life, too. What makes the book even more perfect is that once Ray’s eyes are opened to what it means to put others first and give of self, he STILL doesn’t put two and two together. Even though I was disappointed with the big reveal of Grandma’s definition of the meaning of life, it really is the perfect, most realistic ending there could be, and the epilogue left me grinning.

ABOUT THE NARRATION: Kevin Clay NAILS IT. From voicing Grandma (Think Vicki Lawrence’s as Mama from the Carol Burnett show. Hilarious!) to teenager Ray to the backwoods accents of the trailer park residents to the righteousness of Dalen, Clay makes each character unique and memorable. Whether the character is male or female, young or old, his delivery is perfection, and this book is one of the few which doesn't need the listening speed increased. A quick search reveals Clay’s narrated a ton of books – including some by one of my favorite authors, Preston Child – so I am excited to listen to more of his performances.

Thank you to the author and Audiobookworm Productions for providing me an audio download in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Lesli
  • Lesli
  • 30-10-19

AMAZING

I am so glad this book was referred to me. I would have never chosen it on my own, however this book is amazing. So many ups and downs about life. I would recommend it to everyone of every age

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Profile Image for Spiritwalker51
  • Spiritwalker51
  • 14-10-19

A quirky story with a great lesson

Ray vs the Meaning of Life
Author: Michael F. Stewart
Narrator: Kevin Clay
Listening Time: 7 hrs. 47 min.

Disclaimer: "This Audiobook was given by the author, narrator, or publisher at no cost, in exchange for an unbiased honest review."

I always like to preface any reviews I give with this information.
I am a 68 year old female who has been an avid reader since I was around 10 or 11 years old.
I read primarily for pleasure.
I have a great many interests and do a lot of research for personal pleasure and knowledge as well.

I was not sure what to expect when I first started listening to this audiobook.
I was somewhat surprised by the chain of events that leads to the humorously told demise of
Ray's grandmother. It sounded more like a comedy of errors or perhaps terrors might be a better word.

Ray is a 17 year old who lives in his grandmother's trailer park. He is uninspired by life, sort of an under-achiever who spends his time working at a hamburger joint, playing video games, and pining after a girl who also works at said hamburger joint.

Ray's family is very dysfunctional and at the very beginning when it is discovered that Ray is to be the recipient of all his grandmother's wealth,(with a specific caveat), you see the worst side of his family come out.

In real life we know that death seems to either bring out the best, or the worst in people and initially this does bring out the worst in Ray's family.
I did not like these people and indeed wondered how Ray had survived his childhood with the kind of mother he had.

Initially, with the exception of Ray, his family seems to be grasping and shallow people whose only concern seemed to be who got the money and what they would do with it.

Oh, the caveat to Ray receiving his grandmother's inheritance is that within 30 days he must know the meaning of life and has to tell the lawyer who has the answer in a sealed envelope.
If he doesn't do this, then the inheritance goes to the grasping family members.

I don't want to go any deeper into the story line than this.

I will tell you that I found parts of this story pretty "icky" but I think it was intentional on the part of the author.

This book is very quirky, silly, funny, maddening, and gradually as the story progresses and the characters grow, and grow on you; it becomes a really great experience to listen to.

What is the meaning of life? You will have to read or listen to this to find out for yourself, unless of course you know for yourself what the meaning of life is...


Author Michael F. Stewart is an author I had never read or listened to before, and after having listened to this audiobook version of his story, I would definitely be willing to read more of his work. The story progresses very well and for the kind of story it is; a coming of age story, the entire book is orchestrated very well, I believe.
I can tell you that there was not any part of it that I found boring.


Narrator Kevin Clay whose work I have heard before did wonderfully with this group of characters.
This man has a wonderful grasp of accents, intonations, ranges and it was a real pleasure once again to hear his voice acting.
His character voices are consistent, easily differentiated and at no time was I ever in doubt of which character was speaking.

I think most young people from the age of 14 and above would enjoy this book/audiobook.
Despite the quirkiness of this book, there are real lessons to be learned here.

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Profile Image for John Hodge
  • John Hodge
  • 01-08-19

Great book! Great Narration!

I love the simplicity and honesty of the story. The near ration but Kevin Clay was outstanding. He truly has a gift for transporting you in the moment with the characters!

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Profile Image for C. Caillier
  • C. Caillier
  • 21-11-18

I LOVED THIS BOOK!!

The story caught my attention right away, but it was the characters that kept me wanting to hear more. I also enjoyed the performance of the narrator with each character having their own personality. It's a fun book. It made me smile alot and laugh out loud a few times. It's worth the time. HAVE FUN!!

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Profile Image for Keith Berets
  • Keith Berets
  • 21-11-18

Car Trip Sermon

Stewart’s story is great, but it’s too preachy, especially for a road trip with kids. Rays relationship with his immediate family needed to be more developed at the beginning to make sense later on. Kevin Clay is an excellent narrator. It would make a good movie!

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  • Writers and Authors
  • 10-10-18

You will Laugh and Cry but in a good way!

I have to start this review off with the narration, usually, a YA (sort of) Humor & Satire type book narration is a tough and sometimes a little hard to listen to but Kevin Clay ROCKED IT!! All the voices were perfect even the weird characters, so perfect I laughed out loud several times, just visualizing the character. He was a spot on narrator for this book. Whether the character is male or female, young or old, he delivered a perfect read.

The author did a fantastic job putting together a book this is a good read for all readers, I see people saying coming of age, and YA but it’s not, its life, its humor, it’s a good book, its thought-provoking and a really good listen/read. I will give you a heads up the story is told in the first person by Ray, and the writing style is of a teenager, but do not let that keep you away from this book. I highly recommend Ray vs The Meaning of Life…

A dysfunctional family, Ray to inherit the trailer park. It’s a million-dollar estate with one hitch: To prove he’s not as aimless as he seems, Ray must discover the meaning of life by the end of the month. This is where it gets good…

Search for the meaning of life, Ray will discover things about himself he never knew possible.

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  • BookAddict'sReviews
  • 07-10-18

Quirky, sad, laughing

Stewart’s story is one that I would definitely call introspective. Ray seems to just be this weird and quirky character who is going through a rough time. His family is not all that helpful either. In fact I often got mad at the way they treated him. Ray also seems a bit depressed, although I admire the humor he’s able to find in these tough situations. This is definitely a story that you have to give some time to get into. The first bit is pretty sad, but it evolves over time to something more hopeful. I really like Ray and he made me laugh and cry a bunch during the story. I give it a 5/5 stars.

The narration by Clay was great as well! He does all these weird voices that make me laugh at times. I also think he did a great job with putting emotion in where it’s needed. I would definitely listen to him as a narrator of another work in the future. Studio production seems great as well. So I’m giving the audio a 5/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Michael F. Stewart. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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  • Lomeraniel
  • 04-10-18

Quirky and endearing, a must read!

The blurb of this book sounded felt so different from the mainstream for YA that I immediately became curious. Ray is part of a very dysfunctional and atypical family. They own and live in a caravan park, and his grandmother leaves him the park if he finds the meaning of life within a month.

The story is told in the first person by Ray, and the writing style is indeed the one of a teenager. It's quirky at times and reflexive at others. At the beginning of the story, I felt really annoyed about Ray's family and the way they treated him. I thought it was so sad how some people can behave during hard moments, almost mistreating their loved ones. It was good that the story picked my interest rather quickly because I was feeling so bad about Ray that I was not sure I wanted to read this book.

In the search for the meaning of life, Ray will count with the help of a famous guru, and in the middle of his grieving, he will learn that the best way of finding the meaning of life is not focusing on it. The characters in this book evolve great lengths thought the story, especially Ray. I found it easy to relate to him, and I laughed and cried in equal parts. 

This book is also a journey of self-discovery, and a great book not only for young adults. Sometimes we're obsessed with great tasks, just forgetting what we have in front of us. This is what I learned from this book, a good piece of advice at any age:

Imagine your better self.
Visualize your goals and achieve them.
Think you'd be dead tomorrow. What will you do today?
Create good habits.
Find what you truly love and focus your energy towards that.
Keep your promises.
Be kind.
I just feel like writing this in big letters and put it on my wall where I can see it every day.

Kevin Clay's narration was really enjoyable. He not only impersonated Ray but also gave different styles and voices to the other characters. His narration is what kept me going at the beginning of the book when I was not sure whether I was going to like it or not. It was simply perfect.

I think this is a great book, which I would recommend to all teens, but I think it will also be enjoyed by people of any age group since it deals with universal truths. I'd love to see this on the big screen.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Michael F. Stewart. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.