In Long Island (Simon & Schuster Audio, 9 hours and 28 minutes), the sequel to 2009’s bittersweet Brooklyn, Colm Tóibín revisits the life of Irish immigrant Eilis Lacey, who left home for New York in the 1950s.

Now, two decades later, Eilis and her husband, Tony, are parents to two teenagers, living in a suburban neighborhood surrounded by his family. One day, a stranger’s visit changes the course of their comfortable life, driving a wedge between them. Smarting from various betrayals, Eilis returns to Ireland for her mother’s birthday and confronts the ghosts of her past, in particular Jim, the man she abandoned all those years before.

Irish actress Jessie Buckley (Wicked Little Letters, The Lost Daughter, I’m Thinking of Ending Things) narrates Long Island, and her versatility with subtle inflection helps flesh out Tóibín’s exquisitely drawn characters. With equal depth, Buckley reveals the seething turmoil within the outwardly calm Eilis; the steely determination hidden behind the deceptive warmth of Francesca, Eilis’ Italian American mother-in-law; the warring nerves and startling field-general decisiveness of Eilis’ old friend Nancy, who has reason to be wary of Eilis’ return. Buckley is also hilarious as Eilis’ querulous mother, highlighting the author’s sly humor in this haunting story about love, regret, and second chances.

Leaving the past behind is also a monumental struggle for the characters in Rachel Khong’s Real Americans (Random House Audio, 14 hours and 40 minutes), which examines questions of class, culture, heredity, and identity over three generations.

Three distinct narrators represent the three main characters, each reader echoing the fears and hopes of different generations. In the first section, Louisa Zhu voices the Chinese American Lily Chen, a media company intern who falls in love with Matthew, a wealthy pharmaceutical heir. In the second, Eric Yang portrays their teenage son, Nick, who is desperate to learn about the father missing from his life. Eunice Wong reads the final, most powerful part of the novel, as Lily’s scientist mother, May, explains her tumultuous childhood, young adulthood, and escape from Mao’s China—and the reason she made the choices that estranged her from her daughter.

All three narrators embody these flawed-but-real characters with the compassion Khong displays throughout the novel. The story builds toward May’s vivid, harrowing revelations, and Wong’s weary confessional delivers a rich and nuanced example of how we can be blinded by our past and our passions despite the best of intentions.

Read by two narrators, Amor Towles’ story collection Table for Two (Penguin Audio, 13 hours and 23 minutes) contains six short stories set in New York and one long novella set in Los Angeles. The biggest disappointment is the fact that the excellent J. Smith-Cameron (of HBO’s Succession) reads only one of the stories. She could have expertly handled the long novella, a slow-burn story about the adventures of Evelyn Ross, a character from Towles’ 2011 novel, Rules of Civility.

That is not to slight the capable Edoardo Ballerini, who reads the rest of the book. Always a solid presence, Ballerini uses an even, placid yet confident tone to mesh with Towles’ at-arm’s-length narration. Towles doesn’t dig too deeply into the psyche or inner emotions of his characters, preferring instead to let their actions speak, and Ballerini’s practiced Everyman narrator offers strong support to his storytelling.

Connie Ogle is a writer in Florida