"One of the truest and most original new voices in American letters," as Kent Haruf has written, Mark Spragg now tells the story of a complex, prodigal homecoming.
Jean Gilkyson is floundering in a trailer house in Iowa with yet another brutal boyfriend when she realizes this kind of life has got to stop, especially for the sake of her daughter, Griff. But the only place they can run to is Ishawooa, Wyoming, where Jean's loved ones are dead and her father-in-law, the only person who could take them in, wishes that she was too. For a decade, Einar Gilkyson has blamed her for the accident that took his son's life, and he has chosen to go on living himself largely because his oldest friend couldn't otherwise survive. They've been bound together like brothers since the Korean War and now face old age on a faltering ranch, their intimacy even more acute after Mitch was horribly crippled while Einar helplessly watched.
Of course, ten-year-old Griff knows none of thisonly that her father is dead and her mother has bad taste in men. But once she encounters this grandfather she'd never heard about, and the black cowboy confined to the bunkhouse, with irrepressible courage and great spunk she attempts to turn grievous loss, wrath, and recriminationto which she's naturally the most vulnerabletoward reconciliation and love.
Immediately compelling and constantly surprising, rich in character, landscape, and compassion, An Unfinished Life shows a novelist of extraordinary talents in the fullness of his powers.
The sapwood snaps and shifts in the low-bellied stove, and the heat swells up against the roofboards and weathered fir planking, and the whole small building seems to groan.
It's the first cool night of the fall-a good night for a sweat-and Einar adjusts his wet back and ass in the webbing of the lawn chair. He feels the full weight of his seventy years and wishes he'd thought to bring a towel to drape over the webbing, but he was in here just this spring and hadn't remembered one then either. He scoops a dipper of water from the pail beside the chair and casts it across the stovetop where it sizzles and steams.
He wishes he'd have known this was the way it was going to be.
"Some old son of a bitch should've explained getting old to me," he says aloud and then bows his head against the wet pulse of heat. "Some old son of a bitch probably did and I wasn't listening."
The sweat drips from his nose and chin.
He reaches his denim shirt from where...
Somewhat similar in style to Kent Haruf's Plainsong - but grittier. The voice of the abusive boyfriend, Roy, is particularly convincing. In the interview that you can read at BookBrowse, Spragg says that the most difficult part of the book was to convey Roy's voice accurately, particularly 'his sense of being misunderstood, his burning righteousness and his sentimentality of violence'.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (337 words).
Before this book, Spragg published a memoir (Where Rivers Change Direction, 1999) and a novel, The Fruit of Stone. The movie of An Unfinished Life (starring Robert Redford and Jennifer Lopez) was originally due to be released around Christmas 2004 but is now scheduled for September this year. Spragg and his...
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