“This Shining Life” by Harriet Kline

Genre: General Fiction/Literary Fiction
Publisher: Random House
Pub. Date: June 22, 2021

The Shing Life

This character-driven novel is a sweet yet sad story that revolves around Rich who is a husband, father, brother, and son. Rich will die in the novel. We know this from chapter one. The book takes you through his prognosis until his death and his family’s grief afterward. The author’s descriptive writing will bring you into the mindset of a dying man. As well as his family members who are trying to digest his upcoming death.

Most of the characters have quirky yet lovable personalities including Rich’s 11-year-old son, Ollie, who is autistic. Although, Ollie is very hard to live with his parents adore him. Rich is the best with him when dealing with his rituals. Can you imagine being a parent of a child who will not leave the house without all his socks in case his feet get wet? Yet, Ollie is such a tender and frequently confused soul that it is hard not to like him.  The author never actually states that Ollie is autistic but it becomes obvious through his words, actions, and rituals.  Rich wants to reprimand his parents that it is not Ollie’s fault that their grandson can appear to be disrespectful.  He is not.  It is just that his brain is wired differently. Unfortunately, when he finally gets the courage to confront his stern and ridged father it is too late. Rich is already gone. The message is obvious.

There is much more in this touching family drama than Rich’s premature death.  The author takes on many themes, living with a disability, adult unresolved painful childhood memories, chronic depression, and the stages of grief. Sometimes I thought the author went too heavy on the characters’ exhausting emotions.  It became tedious to read. But then again, maybe that was Kline’s point—to put the reader up close and personal to the death of a loved one.  However, for me, sweet Ollie is what grabbed my interest and held it throughout the novel.  Watching the boy struggle to understand just what is exactly expected of him when the answer is outside his reasoning melted my heart. Without being preachy, the author gives a lesson in patience, understanding, and the meaning of true acceptance.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review

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