Book Review: This Shining Life by Harriet Kline
Title: This Shining Life
Author: Harriet Kline
Genre: general fiction
Release date: 3rd June 2021
For Rich, life is golden.
He fizzes with happiness and love.
But Rich has an incurable brain tumour.
When Rich dies, he leaves behind a family without a father, a husband, a son and a best friend. His wife, Ruth, can’t imagine living without him and finds herself faced with a grief she’s not sure she can find her way through.
At the same time, their young son Ollie becomes intent on working out the meaning of life. Because everything happens for a reason. Doesn’t it?
But when they discover a mismatched collection of presents left by Rich for his loved ones, it provides a puzzle for them to solve, one that will help Ruth navigate her sorrow and help Ollie come to terms with what’s happened. Together, they will learn to lay the ghosts of the past to rest, and treasure the true gift that Rich has left them: the ability to embrace life and love every moment.
Wonderfully funny and achingly beautiful, this is a story about love in all its forms: absent, lost and, ultimately, regained.
Behind the stunning, illustrated book cover that zings with life is a novel which shows the rawness and complexity of grief and love. The emotional story is told through the eyes of those who loved fun-loving and life-embracing Rich, and highlights the different ways grief affects people and how losing a key member of the family can shift the dynamics of relationships to reveal hidden traumas which need to be tackled before healing can begin.
It’s beautifully written, with distinctive voices which is quite a feat when there are multiple points of view. It was Ollie and his grandmother, Angran, who stole the spotlight from the others, with Gerald, Rich’s father a close third. All were complex characters, troubled and often misunderstood. Ollie is neuro divergent and is used to his dad knowing the routine and what he likes so he is left floundering when he dies but Ollie is also the thread holding the family together and it is his unique way of seeing things and belief that he can make things right which offers the lighter moments once Rich’s voice ends. His dad may only have spoken for a few chapters, but the love the others have for him, makes his personality shine on every page.
Angran’s isolated run-down cottage near the rugged river nicknamed The Ravages is a clever location used to amplify the turmoil and darkness of grief and emotions the characters have.
Would I recommend?
This Shining Life deals with some hard hitting, and heart breaking topics such as death, dementia and depression with sensitivity, accuracy and tenderness. It’s not an easy read because of the subject matter, but has a powerful and uplifting message making it an unforgettable. It would make an ideal book for book clubs because there is a wealth of topics to discuss and characters to explore.
HARRIET KLINE works part time registering births, deaths and marriages and writes for the rest of the week. Her story Ghost won the Hissac Short Story Competition and Chest of Drawers won The London Magazine Short Story Competition. Other short stories have been published online with Litro, For Books’ Sake, and ShortStorySunday, and on BBC Radio 4.
Thank you Random Things Tours for inviting me to this tour and providing me with this gem of a book to give my honest and unbiased opinion.