Author: Harriet Kline

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publisher: Random House

Publication Date: June 22, 2021

Book Description: 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 bestselling 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.

Rating: 3 Stars

Review: This story of a family and centrally a young boy dealing with the unexpected loss of his father. At the opening of this book, Rich is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. He decides to live with what time he has left, making the most of his time with his family. He is told that he will progressively get worse overtime. However for Rich, he remains healthy until one day he gets so ill he goes to the hospital he never returns. The family is left to deal with the aftermath of his death.

His son Ollie has a mission, to find out what it means to be alive, as that was Rich’s own mission after his diagnosis. His wife left alone, cannot even get out of bed, while her son continues to miss school. Rich’s parents, who’s father especially, cannot comprehend what just happened. And the sister-in-law and mother-in-law who loved Rich and are dealing with their own loss, are left to help pick up the pieces of this family.

This book is told from multiple points of views along with multiple timelines. We see Rich get his diagnosis and the weeks that follow until his death, interwoven with the aftermath after his gone. At times this was an emotional read, with a lot of sentimentality. My one complaint is that there were so many characters POV’s and timelines, it felt disjointed and did not flow easily.

I do recommend this story as it has a lot of feels, but just go into knowing there is quite a bit to follow and remember as you go through this. The one positive of the short chapters that if you feel you need to take a break, there are many places to stop and come back to it when you are emotionally ready.

Thank you NetGalley and Random House for an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Posted by:Lauren A.

You really can say I am an obsessed reader as I read 200-300 books per year. I love Literary Fiction, Memoirs (I don't really care what kind), Mysteries and Thrillers. Once in awhile I will thrown in some YA and Romance. When I am not reading, I am a Sales Engineer for a software company, and I take care of my three cats with my husband. I love music, which my college degree is in. Looking forward to share my thoughts on all things reading.

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