Cover Image: This Shining Life

This Shining Life

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Member Reviews

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 weโ€™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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"This Shining Life" by Harriet Kline really resonated with me.  Like Ollie, I am neurodivergent and my dad passed away suddenly when I was still young.  I had a mother and grandparents who didn't know how to cope with their own losses, much less help me deal with mine.  Also like Ollie, I floundered around, searching for meaning that just wasn't there.  I could identify with Ruth too-even though she suffered a tremendous loss, she still felt like she had to be supportive to everyone around her, putting aside her needs for theirs, which eventually led to depression.  

However, as I also found to be the case, in the midst of death and mourning, there were flashes of light and happiness for those left behind.  They learned to listen to each other, and to help each other grieve.  They remembered Rich with funny stories and smiles.  Most of all, they learned that living means having to accept and forgive others, and that love comes in many different forms.  Ollie's dad died, my dad died, but their deaths in some strange way taught us to live.

Many thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and to the author for the opportunity to read an advanced digital copy of this beautiful and realistic book, in exchange for my honest review.
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This book made me think about my Grandmother's funeral years ago, where two of my family members who'd had a huge falling out reconnected. I remember thinking that it was nice that something good came out of such a sad day.

๐™๐™ž๐™˜๐™ ๐™ฅ๐™–๐™จ๐™จ๐™š๐™จ ๐™–๐™ฌ๐™–๐™ฎ ๐™›๐™ง๐™ค๐™ข ๐™˜๐™–๐™ฃ๐™˜๐™š๐™ง ๐™–๐™ฃ๐™™ ๐™ฉ๐™๐™š ๐™จ๐™ฉ๐™ค๐™ง๐™ฎ ๐™ž๐™จ ๐™ฉ๐™ค๐™ก๐™™ ๐™ž๐™ฃ ๐™–๐™ก๐™ฉ๐™š๐™ง๐™ฃ๐™–๐™ฉ๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™œ ๐™ฃ๐™–๐™ง๐™ง๐™–๐™ฉ๐™ž๐™ซ๐™š๐™จ ๐™ค๐™› ๐™๐™ž๐™จ ๐™ฌ๐™ž๐™›๐™š ๐™๐™ช๐™ฉ๐™, ๐™๐™ž๐™จ ๐™ฎ๐™ค๐™ช๐™ฃ๐™œ ๐™จ๐™ค๐™ฃ ๐™Š๐™ก๐™ก๐™ž๐™š, ๐™๐™ž๐™จ ๐™ฅ๐™–๐™ง๐™š๐™ฃ๐™ฉ๐™จ ๐™–๐™ฃ๐™™ ๐™—๐™ค๐™ฉ๐™ ๐™๐™ž๐™จ ๐™ข๐™ค๐™ฉ๐™๐™š๐™ง- ๐™–๐™ฃ๐™™ ๐™จ๐™ž๐™จ๐™ฉ๐™š๐™ง -๐™ž๐™ฃ ๐™ก๐™–๐™ฌ.

All these characters are really flawed.
Obviously they care for each other but they're ignorant to each other's struggles in life and in grief.
The way they had no patience for Ollie, who's an 11 year old Autistic boy just trying to make sense of his father's death really made me mad. But that was the point of the book - to watch as they learn compassion and understanding of others.

I wavered between 3 and 4 stars through the whole book and I still can't decide so I'm going with the 'glass half full' attitude and giving 4โญ

Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for the gifted copy.
Released June 22
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Ollie, is a young boy with autism who's dad has died. He wants worder and tries to keep everything together and in the correct place. His mom, Ruth, on the other hand is mess and very unorganized. It's a story of them trying to make it together after the death of a husband and dad. It's a life dealing with death, trama, uncertainty and loss. Sad and sweet. "I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own." Thank you #NetGalley#DoubleDay#ThisShingingLife
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THE SHINING LIFE: โญ๏ธโญ๏ธโญ๏ธ
Bittersweet story that was for some reason hard for me to really get into. I donโ€™t know if it was structure or story, but I was just not MOVED.

NOTE: I was provided an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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An unforgettable portrait of grief, love, loss, family and friends.  
Many thanks to Random House Publishing and to NetGalley for providing me with a galley in exchange for my honest opinion.
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This Shinning Life
Rating: 3 stars
Thank you to the publisher for the ARC given through NetGalley for review.  All opinions are my own.

TW: Death of a parent due to cancer, strained relationship between mother and daughter

This Shinning Life tells the sad story of how a family is trying to cope with the loss of a husband/father/son to cancer.  Each chapter is a member of the family and tells the reader what is happening to the family and how they are dealing with this great loss.  In the middle of this we have Ollie, who's autistic, his father is who passed away and it he who breaks my heart and trying to understand what is happening around him and trying to solve a puzzle that his father left for him.
This story has mostly sad moments so be forewarned.  There are very few happy moments that Rich had after his prognosis, but yet those when told by Ruth's point of view felt strained.  I did like that Ruth stood up to her mother towards the end of the book.
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Unfortunately, This Shining Life wasnโ€™t the right fit for me. Ollieโ€™s chapters are different from the others because he is a child, but I couldnโ€™t get on board with that writing style. It was repetitive and made the first half of the book almost impossible for me to get through. If I hadnโ€™t received this as an ARC from Random House, I probably wouldnโ€™t have finished reading this. 

Once we passed the 60% mark, the story starts to come together with less repetition and feeling less disjointed. Had the entire book read the same way, I think I would have enjoyed it more. Itโ€™s important to come into this book knowing we start with loss, that there is a lot of grief, and you need to be in the right mindset while reading this. The author discusses many real-world issues, including death, grief, healing, depression, trauma, dementia, and autism. While this wasnโ€™t the right fit for me, I encourage other interested readers to give it a chance.
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A beautiful exploration of one familyโ€™s grief. Itโ€™s obvious that Rich was the shining life in this group, so when he passes away how do his wife, son, parents and in laws move on? I liked how each chapter was from a different characterโ€™s perspective. I also thought the characterization of Ollie was well done as a child on the spectrum. I also thought the book did a good job addressing depression and the way it was exhibited in Ruth, Angran and Gerald. While it wasnโ€™t a real page turner for me, Iโ€™m glad I read it.
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I requested this from #NetGalley because the description reminded me a little of "The Curious Incident", but it was very different from what I expected. It deals with a lot of heavy issues - from terminal illness/death to autism, depression and mental health to childhood trauma, strained relationships and aging parents. Told in alternating voices, the characters are dealing with the grief of losing their husband/son/father/friend and the story of how they navigate this process is honest and raw. At times, it felt overwhelming. But I'm glad I stuck with it. We all need the reminder that life can be short so make the most of everyday.

Thanks to @atRandom and #NetGalley for the digital ARC of #ThisShiningLife. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.
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A family has been devastated by the death of Rich, who left a wife and ten year old autism spectrum son, Ollie. Dying from cancer, Rich selected gifts for each family member that would be a special surprise, and Ollie helped to pack and mail them. Somehow the gifts were mixed up and the book deals with the emotions of all those involved. This character driven story explores the personalities of the family. 

Thanks to NetGalley for sending me this ARC. It will be published in June 2021.
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This Shining Life is a book narrated by various family members in the weeks before and after the death of Rich, husband of Ruth and father of Ollie. The first half of the book (part 1) jumps back and forth across time and across perspectives and makes it very disjointed and hard to really become engrossed in the story or sympathetic to any one character. By the last 1/3 of the book, the story is told more directly and it became a better and easier read. In the description from NetGalley, I was intrigued by the idea that Ollie, a boy described by his father as smart and strange, was determined to solve a puzzle and clues left for him by his deceased father. I anticipated more of a game with clues dispensed throughout the story... Sort of a mystery or fun that the readers shares with Ollie. But that isn't what happens. Instead, Ollie is left confused and obsessed with finding out why his father gifted specific items to each of his relatives and what those gifts and relatives can teach Ollie about the meaning of life. Ultimately, this book had too much sadness and depression with not enough corresponding uplifting moments (perhaps because the character who knows how to make any moment fun is the one who dies?!?) to be as enjoyable as I'd have liked. 

NOTE: Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a free advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Autistic Ollie recently lost his father, Rich. Before passing, his father had Ollie help him arrange gifts for everyone he was going to leave behind. Puzzles to help them solve the problems and meaning of life. After his passing, Ollieโ€™s mother is having trouble getting out of bed. His aunt Nessa, grandma Ingram, and grandpa Gerald are also having trouble with his death. Desperate to resolve everything and find closure, he tries to solve the puzzles his dad left them. Will he succeed? This book accurately depicts autism and does a great job of bringing the characters to life. The novel drags a bit in places, but is overall a good story. Readers interested in autism or dealing with grief may enjoy reading this book. 4 stars, Grades 5 to 7
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In This Shining Life by Harriet Kline, we meet Ollie an eleven-year-old who has autism. Ollieโ€™s father had cancer and before he died, he helped Ollie with specific gifts for each person in his family that will help Ollie. But of course, things go wrong and the gifts do not get to the intended recipient. This is distressing for Ollie, as it would be for anyone but especially this boy.

Ollie needs to work out this problem and figure out which object goes to each person. Within this quest might be the answer to the question, โ€œwhat is the meaning of life?โ€

Hereโ€™s the synopsis:

Meet Ollie. Heโ€™s eleven years old. He hasnโ€™t yet met a Killer Sudoku he canโ€™t solve, but he finds the world around him difficult. People donโ€™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 Ollieโ€™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 heโ€™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 heโ€™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, and it is a poignant yet ultimately uplifting meditation on grief, healing, and love.

This book was sad and a little depressing at times! Still, well written and worth your time to read.

Out on July 1.
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You need to be prepared for this book; it's very depressing and often hard to read. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mindset to read it because it has gotten rave reviews so take this with a grain of salt (I had to have a margarita)! Ollie is eleven and autistic when his father dies unexpectedly from a brain tumor. His family is devastated but Ollie can't make any sense of it until he believes his father left him a puzzle with gifts for everyone; he's convinced if he solves the puzzle he will understand "what it feels to be alive." Told from alternating perspectives, we see a family struggling to heal but the focus is on Ollie who is in his own little world; one of his family members calls him "defective." You'd think living with an autistic child, you'd learn ways to help him cope. But there is some closure at the end and we see how this life could be "shining." It is an impressive debut and I will read more of Kline's work as it's clear she's talented.
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So, know in advance that this one is sad. Touching sad. The novel is centered around a family coming to terms with a death. It is in parts and each part has a different perspective/focus. 
In part one, we have Rich's story before he passes away, and much from Ollie, who is autistic, and is trying the best he can to understand what is happening in his family. A little mystery ensues as we are left with many questions headed into the next sections. 
Part two we focus on the grieving and trying to decipher the meaning behind the objects left behind by Rich by each family member. They each get the wrong gifts, due to a mixup, and we are taken on their journeys of exploring how they piece it all together. This part was a little long/slow for me, but still enjoyable to watch it unfold. 
Finally, we focus on Ollie and his wanting to give the perfect gift for each family member and his personalized quest for the elusive meaning of life and what it all means. 
I loved this book. It was hard at times, it brought up "stuff" for me with family, death and struggling to make sense of things beyond my control. It left me sad, but full in my heart. 
Thankful for the ARC on this one!
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This Shining Life is the story of Rich, who dies from an inoperable brain tumor. His son Ollie, who is autistic, is trying to make sense of this. The story is told from each characters perspective, including his wife, his mother-in-law, his sister-in-law and his parents. The time line includes the time of the diagnosis, the weeks that follow until Rich's death and the months after. Before he died, Rich had selected specific gifts for the people in his life. Gifts that he hoped would have meaning to them. He wanted them delivered upon his death. Somehow, the gifts were mislabeled and they went to different people rather than the ones he intended. Ollie believes that these gifts are a puzzle that he needs to solve to answer the question "what is the meaning of life"? Rich's wife Ruth, struggles with depression and has great difficulty dealing with his death as well as Ollie. The characters are all very interesting individuals who bring much to the story line. This was a sad but interesting book however, the topic could be unsettling to someone dealing with cancer . Thanks to NetGalley for providing me an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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This story begins with Ollie telling the story, from his perspective, the perspective of a young boy with autism, whose father, Rich, has just died. Before, though, his father had Ollie help him arrange gifts for those he knew he would be leaving behind. He knew that his brain tumor was incurable. He is trying to bring comfort, a token of remembrance, of him and his love for them all. These gifts, he told Ollie, would help him solve the puzzle of what it means to be alive. He gives Ollie a pair of binoculars that โ€™smell of old booksโ€™ unread โ€™for a very long time.โ€™

It isnโ€™t long before Ollie realizes that everything has gone awry, the packages have ended up with the wrong people, and he is desperate to correct this. If he canโ€™t, he will never know what it really means to be alive. Ollie begins to unravel, desperate to restore each gift to the person they were meant for, that is the only way for him to know what it means to be alive.

The cast of characters in this story include his grieving mother, Ruth, who is struggling to get out of bed and watch over Ollie. Nessa, his aunt and Ruthโ€™s sister and their mother Angran. Gerald, his fatherโ€™s father, and Marjorie, his fatherโ€™s mother. But this story belongs most of all to Ollie, who has a desperate need to restore everything to the way it was supposed to be, and to solve the puzzle. He doesnโ€™t ever want to cry about his fatherโ€™s death, he is completely focused on figuring out the right answers in order to solve the puzzle his father left him. The frustration and obsession take their toll on him, but no one is listening to what he is really saying. He needs to fix the package mix-up in order to solve it and make everything right again.

I struggled through the first half of this and set it aside despite it being a relatively quick read. Time-wise, I could have easily finished this 336 page book in one sitting if Iโ€™d been engaged, but I wasnโ€™t. Ollieโ€™s so obsessed, naturally, over the same thing, it gets a bit repetitive in nature, but the second half it did pick up a bit more.

A story about love and loss, families, and the pain and sorrow that accompanies losing a loved one. Perhaps most of all, listening beyond words.


Pub Date: 22 Jun 2021

Many thanks for the ARC provided by Random House Publishing Group - Random House / Dial Press Trade Paperback
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