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Buy for $24.50
A boy struggling to process an unexpected loss believes he has been given a series of clues to the biggest puzzle of all - the meaning of life - in this deeply felt debut novel.
“An exquisitely beautiful and compelling novel about love, loss, and life.” (Rachel Joyce, New York Times best-selling author of Miss Benson’s Beetle)
Meet Ollie. He’s eleven years old. He hasn’t yet met a Killer Sudoku he can’t solve, but he finds the world around him difficult. People don’t say what they mean, and he hates being wrong. And now, a sudden tragedy teaches him there is no easy answer to the problem of grief.
When Ollie’s happy-go-lucky father, Rich, dies of brain cancer, his mother, Ruth, has no idea how to keep living, and the entire family is thrown into disarray. The only thing that makes sense to Ollie is the puzzle he’s convinced his father left behind: one gift for each member of the family. If Ollie can find the connection between a pink vase and an old pair of binoculars, then somehow he’ll discover the secret he believes Rich wanted to share with them all: what it means to be alive.
Interweaving the voices of each character in turn, this deeply felt novel paints a portrait of a family learning to come together through the darkest times. This Shining Life is a poignant yet ultimately uplifting meditation on grief, healing, and love.
“A welcome lesson to writers of tragedy that death can incorporate every emotion in the world, including laughter, anger, and selfishness, and still be honest and touching. Kline has given a difficult subject a loving, tender, and occasionally funny tone which is pleasing and very satisfying.” (ON Magazine)
“By exploring how each of the characters felt and behaved, as well as showing their individual perspectives on shared experiences, [Kline] not only added layers of emotional depth to her storytelling but also very effectively demonstrated that there is no magic ‘blueprint’ for successfully negotiating the bereavement and the grieving process.” (NB magazine)
“I loved this exquisitely written novel for its terrific characterization.... Unforgettable.” (Sue Leonard, Irish Examiner)
What listeners say about This Shining LifeAverage Customer Ratings
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Beautiful Exploration of Love, Life, and Grief
This was one of those books where I had to simmer on it for a bit before I could figure out what to say. In the end, all I can say is that this title is just absolutely lovely. The story explores multiple perspectives as each character comes to terms with their own grief and the meaning of life. They each grapple with their emotions and relationships as they explore how to navigate life following the death of a loved one. Each character believes that they are handling their grief in the most appropriate and beneficial way possible, assuming that they are doing what is best to support themselves and their loved ones. But as the narrative changes from one POV to the next, we discover that those assumptions often miss the mark.
This book has now become very dear to me. There was nothing flashy or complex about the plot. Every aspect of “This Shining Life” was propelled by the development of individual characters and their unique perspective on life and death. A man, whose death is imminent, trying to dictate his feelings and leave a lasting mark on the world. A mother-in-law who wants to help her daughter but is unwilling to admit how her own past blinds her current choices. A wife who is left a widow and a single mother and must navigate her grief while standing firm for her family. A friend who is devastated but shoves aside her emotions to support her family, not realizing how her own unwillingness to face her grief is impacting those around her. A father who has lost his son and is struggling with his own failing health and deteriorating mind. A mother who has spent her life focusing on appearances and the proper ways of the world but feels everything proper and correct disappearing with the death of her son and the failing health of her husband. A boy who views the world through a neurodivergent lens and has spent his whole life trying to understand the world and people around him and must now understand something as complex as the death of his father. Each perspective is carefully crafted and beautifully complex. Kline delivers a cast of whole, developed characters in this story. There are no favorites, no centralized characters, no bias of perspective: only raw depictions of unique outlooks in a single situation. It is perfectly executed and uniquely special. The care that Kline put into developing this cast of characters is evident in every word of this book. And made even more special by her Author’s Note at the end of the narrative.
This book is sad throughout without much reprieve, which is usually something I would avoid reading. But none of it is sadness for shock value; it is sad because the characters are experiencing sadness. Every aspect is moving and important. This poignant tale is a beautiful exploration of love and life and grief.
I purchased this title in audio to listen to the narration of my dear friend Ella Lynch without knowing too much about the story. I was pleasantly surprised by every element of this audiobook. The selection of the full ensemble cast was spot-on with each performance uniquely brilliant. So much so, that the experience of this book and the intensity of the emotional delivery is, I imagine, stronger while listening to the production rather than reading it hard copy. Absolutely beautiful work on this production.