Cover Image: This Shining Life

This Shining Life

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This Shining Life, by Harriet Kline, is the beautiful, heartbreaking story of a loving, joyous dad coming to terms with a terminal diagnosis and a family struggling with anger, bewilderment, and grief.  Kline gently and carefully pulls back the curtains from each family member, lovingly exposing the emotional confusion and chaos each feels for the man they are losing and each other.  While the story is told through multiple points of view, Ollie, the eleven-year-old son, is the most compelling character.  Apparently somewhere on the autism spectrum, Ollie adored his dad and tries to figure out the puzzle of the meaning of life.  Ollie will make you laugh, cry, and wonder yourself about the meaning of life.

This is not an easy book to read. It is a book that grew on me, that I found truly worthwhile. Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing for the opportunity to read a digital ARC.
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This is a good book for those who like to read sad stories and aren’t affected by the triggers of cancer or death. I didn’t love how often the POV changed in this book. I particularly don’t enjoy reading from a child’s perspective, so Ollie’s chapters weren’t my favorite. This is a heartfelt story though.
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This Shining Life by Harriet Kline is a strong debut novel with a stunning cover. It's a book about parental death and coping with that loss. We know from the start that father Rich will die, and then we are left with the fallout and how those around him, especially autistic son Ollie, deal with that loss. 

Rich leaves a set of gifts behind for those he loves, and Ollie, a lover of puzzles, feels that he's been left one last mystery to solve. It's a bittersweet and poignant tale for sure. 

Many thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for sharing this book with me. All thoughts are my own.
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This is a family drama focusing the grief and struggles of a family after the death of the person who linked them all together. Each adult tends to squash or deflect feelings so the majority of the book focuses on dealing with the past along with facing a future without Rich.

Along the way, delightful, brutally honest, logical Ollie is focused on solving the puzzle of the gifts his father left. He is convinced that the solution will explain what it means to be alive.

I loved this book. The characters in this book are very real and flawed; this isn't a sitcom solve it all in 30 minute kind of plot. They are all dealing with big hard things and trying to do it solo so as not to burden any other family member. It's heartbreaking and encouraging and hopeful. 

*I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher and I am required to disclose that in my review in compliance with federal law.*
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This is such a quirky book, and the characters are very unusual!  There are usually "strange" members in any family, but these people, (some in-laws included) are varying degrees of damaged, and/or dysfunctional!  In spite of, or more probably because of this, I thoroughly enjoyed this book!  There are so many things I'm still thinking about and will for a while.  I won't go into details as many others have done that, but just say this one is worth the read!
Thank you to #NetGalley, author, Harriet Klune, and Random House for the pre-publication copy in return for an honest review.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this special book. Ollie was such a sweet boy and I loved how he was portrayed so uniquely. This book explores grief in a thoughtful way, and it’s interspersed with light-heartedness. Also the cover is just fabulous! Really loved this one.
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This Shining Life
By Harriet Kline

This story is about grief and loss. But there is so much more – it is a story about Ruth, Rich, and Ollie. 

Rich has passed away from brain cancer and Ruth is left to navigate the rest of their lives alone with her eleven year old eccentric neurodiverse son Ollie. Rich leaves the surviving family with special gifts and with the help of Ollie, each learns to understand their gift – what it means to live and live their life fully. 

This touching story will resonate with many who has suffered loss and are dealing with grief of a loved one. This was such a special story with many life lessons to teach us.
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With brain tumors, alzheimers, surviving, and caring for those who are walking the ends of their life, there has been a lot of life that has been lived. A story of putting the pieces of life together, it’s meanings for individuals and the art of leaving behind something meaningful, Kline gives us one family’s experiences.  
The plot is detailed and the writing is worthy, but the storyline didn’t enthrall me.
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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an e-ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Ruth's husband Rich is dying of a brain tumor. They have a young son, Ollie, who is a bit...different.

Rich plans to give gifts to each of his family members when he dies, and when they do so, it seems that there has been a mistake. Each person received a gift that just doesn't quite make sense.

Ollie feels this is a puzzle that his dad has left for him and he is determined to solve it so he can truly feel what it really means to be alive (something his dad told him).

This is a story about love and loss, being different and that's ok....I had a tough time focusing on this one at times.
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Trigger warnings: cancer death, autism, mental health, and dysfunctional families.

Rich loves laughter and fun; the kind of guy who always sees the glass as half full, filled with good stuff, and more on the way! When he dies far too young of a brain tumor, he leaves behind his wife, Ruth; 11 year old son, Ollie; his parents Marjorie and Gerald; his sister-in-law, Nessie; and his mother-in-law, Angram.

The story is told from the POV of all of the above characters, told in three time frames - before Rich's prognosis is received, after his prognosis is given to his loved ones (he didn't want to know it), and following his death.

For me, Ollie, is the stand-out character. So at sea in the world because he's on the autism spectrum and doesn't understand much of the talk, feelings, and happenings going on around him, he nevertheless struggles mightily throughout the book to figure out the answer to the puzzle he is sure his dad meant for him to solve: what does it mean to be alive?

As Ollie is focused on that, we come to know Ruth, her sister, Nessa, and their mother, Angram. The girls have always been close to each other, and emotionally distant from their mother. The reasons for this are disclosed throughout the story.

Rich's parents, Marjorie and Gerald, loved their son deeply and he returned that love, but they had limited contact with his family at Rich's request. Now that their son is gone, they struggle with their grief and whether they can find a place again in his family.

Ms. Kline's characters are all flawed, and all grieving, each in his/her own way. As they work through their grief, they have the chance to come to terms with past events, and possibly grow as they heal. Can they put the past behind them and move forward? Will Ollie ever solve his puzzle?

This was an ok read, but a bit uneven for me. I found myself looking forward to Ollie's chapters much more than those of the other characters.

My thanks to NetGalley and Dial Press for allowing me to read a review copy of this novel, which was published on 6/22/21. All opinions (and any errors) expressed in this review are my own.
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I was really looking forward to this book about Rich, a British man who gets diagnosed with a brain tumor and only has months to live. Told in alternating POVs from Rich, his wife, Ruth, their son Ollie, who is on the spectrum as well as their extended family members - this book covers a number of heavy issues as the characters deal with their grief over the loss of the man they all loved. As a brain tumor survivor myself, I really connected with Rich, especially with his love of cheese and his deep love of life and his family. What I didn't love so much about this book was how many different perspectives there were. I felt the author tried to do too much instead of focusing on just a few characters. Ruth grapples with a deep-seated depression after her husband's death (something that runs in her family), while still trying to be there for her son, who is struggling to find meaning in life after losing his dad. Rich's mother is not just trying to support her daughter in law and grandson but trying to do right by her husband who is suffering from worsening dementia and needing more care than she can give. In addition, Ruth's sister and mom are also working through their own issues and grief. It all gets to be a little much and in my opinion this book would have been stronger with a few fewer perspectives. Overall very well written and tackles hard topics but I wanted more (or rather less). Recommended for people who enjoy stories about families dealing with loss and grief in their own different ways.
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This Shining Life by Harriet Kline is a highly recommended poignant family drama.

When Rich dies from brain cancer his family must learn to deal with grief and each other. The novel is written with short chapters that are from the different points-of-view of Rich's wife Ruth, son Ollie (almost eleven), sister-in-law Nessa, mother-in-law Angran, mother Marjorie, and father Gerald. Ollie is on the autism spectrum, and he misses his dad who provided stability for him and could help him understand the world. After his dad dies, he is determined to solve the puzzle he thinks his dad left for him that will explain what it means to be alive.

Ruth is grieving and struggling with depression. Rich brought joy to her life and she depended on him. Nessa, who was friends with Rich before introducing him to Ruth, is also grieving but must try to help Ruth and handle her indomitable mother Angran, who is not only a force to be reckoned with but also deals with depression and repressed anger. Marjorie wants to mourn her son and have a relationship with her grandson, but Gerald is sinking into dementia and makes life even more challenging and difficult. Angran doesn't help as she steadfastly steps in-between them. All of them are dealing with numerous emotions and reactions to Rich's death.

Although all the characters are given room for their voices, Ollie is the heart of the novel since his are the only chapter's written in the first person. He is greatly concerned with solving his father's puzzle, the answer to what it means to be alive, but no one seems to be listening or understanding what he is saying. They also seem to be forgetting that he also is grieving. The puzzle focuses on the special gifts his dad picked out and chose for everyone before he died. Ollie was given a pair of binoculars so he could focus on things. Now he is sure he needs to determine what connects all the gifts to solve the puzzle

A novel about a grieving family is naturally going to be sad, but Kline also shows how members were trying to help in their own ways. The result is a beautifully written novel about loss, endurance, sorrow, love, and acceptance as a family tries to navigate their journey in grieving and life. The short chapters and even pacing help propel the novel along. Ollie's obsession does become a bit tiresome and repetitive, but that is also indicative of being on the spectrum and how he deals with his emotions. All of the characters are portrayed as complex, unique individuals with unique voices. This character driven, poignant family drama is a fine debut novel.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House via Netgalley.
The review will be published on Barnes & Noble, Google Books, and submitted to Amazon.
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I received a free electronic ARC of this novel from Netgalley, Harriet Kline, and Doubleday Random House - Dial Press.  Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me.  I have read This Shining Life of my 0wn volition, and this review reflects my honest opinion of this work.  This novel looks at life from all angles.  I found it both alarming and soothing on a deeply emotional level.  

Rich is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.  He will spend his last days visiting with people who love him at the family home - his students from school, his 11-year-old autistic son Ollie, wife Ruth, Sister-in-law (Ruth's sister) Nessa, his folks Marjorie and Gerald, and his wacky mother-in-law Angela but known to friends and family as Angran, thus named by grandson Ollie in his babyhood and taken up by all.  They all see Rich and death from very different perspectives, and we go there with them in their own voices. 

This is one of those novels where you keep inserting yourself into the story.  How would I react to this?  If this were so-and-so dying what would I do, what would I say?   A thought-provoking tale told very well.
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Ollie’s father has died, much too young leaving a family in turmoil.  Each struggling to come to grips with his death.  Told in the many voices of his wife, his mother and father, his mother in law, his sister in law and his eleven year old autistic son, each tells the story of their own pain.  While the rest of the family is struggling, Ollie is looking for the meaning of life.  He loves puzzles and he’s sure his dad left one for him to figure out with the last gifts that he sent to everyone.  Each  character is flawed and so many times Ollie gets the short end of the stick. The scenes of Richard’s illness and death are so very real.  We are left with hope and optimism as we reach the end as healing begins to take place, but a book that was quite heart wrenching and for me a difficult read.
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3.5/5 - Are you looking for a book to make you go deep in your feelings and weep big tears down your cheeks? Look no more. 

In many ways, this book is beautiful. It is also very sad and heavy emotionally. After Rich dies dies of a brain tumour, his family is left to pick up the pieces and deal with many instances of emotional and intergenerational trauma. This book looks at how grief is shared and experienced differently by individuals as well as how new bonds of love can be formed. 

I liked that this books was told from multiple POVs and along different timelines. A few of the characters I found very frustrating and wanted to suggest that they all see a therapist. I found the book was slow to start and at times repetitive. I did pick it up and put it down a few times due to the subject matter. 

I was enamoured by Ollie, the young son with autism. Throughout much of the book, I just wanted him to be hugged, but everyone else is struggling as well. Ollie reminded me a lot of the little boy from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.

If you chose to read this, please be emotionally prepared. I had to take many breaks with this one. 

Thank you to NetGalley, Dial Press and Random House Publishing for the advance copy.

Pub day is June 22, 2021. Review will be posted on Instagram @tays_booknook on the same day.
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4 stars / This review will be posted at BookwormishMe.com today.


Prepare yourself for an emotional roller coaster. Ruth and Rich met through Ruth’s sister, Nessa. They’ve been married just about forever and have a son, Ollie, who seems to be autistic. Rich has just been diagnosed with a brain tumor. A brain tumor too large to treat. The only option is palliative care. Hence the emotional roller coaster.

How do you figure out a way to make someone’s last days on earth perfect? Ruth just wants Rich to enjoy every last day. Nessa wants to make sure that every item on Rich’s bucket list is accomplished. Ollie believes that his dad wants him to solve a puzzle. And then there are the parents, Ruth’s mother Angran who believes it is her job to make sure that Ruth isn’t traumatized further; and Marjorie and Gerald, Rich’s parents are just barely hanging on. 

The story flip flops between several different time periods, but with the ability to easily determine when it is. Each chapter is told by a different person, so that we get to capture each person’s reactions and emotions surrounding a horrible diagnosis. As well as coping with the tragedy ahead of them, each character also makes some realizations about themselves. 

Although there is a lot of pain and tragedy in the novel, there is also a lot of joy and celebration. It makes you think about life in a completely different aspect.
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Ollie wants to know: "How will I ever know, then, that it means to be alive?" When Ollie's father Rich was dying due to a brain tumor, a list of gifts for friends and family was made. Each gift was chosen very carefully and thoughtfully. Binoculars for Ollie (to help him focus). A pink vase for Other Grandma (Rich's mother). A Bohemian necklace for Aunt Nessa (sister of Ollie's mother Ruth). And so on. After Rich's death, Ollie discovers the list and it becomes his mission to find out what these gifts were meant to teach him about life. Since Ollie is autistic, this challenge becomes an obsession. The surviving family members, caught up in their own grief and other dysfunctional dynamics, seem to disregard Ollie's project. Will they understand in time to help Ollie answer his question? Told in a range of perspectives and in diverging timelines, this is about the beauty of life and family. There is hope.

Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.
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Many thanks to NetGalley and Dial Press/Random House for gifting me a digital ARC of this bittersweet book by Harriet Kline - 4 shining stars!

Ollie's dad died.  Ollie is a different child and he's not always sure he fits into his family just as they aren't sure about him.  But when Rich dies at a young age of a brain tumor, the entire family is thrown and unsure of how to navigate their grief.  Mom, Ruth, sinks into depression; her mom, Angran, remains angry at life; Nessa, Ruth's sister, was Rich's friend as well and tries to get Ruth to move on.  Rich's parents, dealing with their own issues, struggle with losing their son.  Rich left a present for each family member and Ollie helped wrap them up.  But things didn't turn out as planned and Ollie is desperate to set things right.

The story is told from all the different viewpoints of the family members, both before Rich's death and after.  Ruth's childhood issues come into play in all her relationships and she has to come to terms with them.  This is a wonderful story of grief - of loss, of coming together, of moving on.  I loved all the different voices and how the author let us see different viewpoints at different times to tell the same story through another's eyes.  Which is another important lesson from this book - what we think others may want or need may not be true.
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While there were beautiful moments in this book, there was too much chaos for me. The only character I really liked was Ollie because at least he was trying to listen to the rest of the family. Everyone else seemed to focus on themselves and not care about Ollie floundering.
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I really liked this book. A lot. The characters were believable, if not a bit frustrating at times. Life is a journey with no destination in sight. We may think think we know where we’re going, but there are so many side trips to be had. I loved the title. Thanks to NetGalley and publisher for the ARC.
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