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An Unfinished Life by Mark Spragg
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An Unfinished Life (2004)

by Mark Spragg

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4282024,653 (3.82)16
  1. 00
    Lark and Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: Both books have the same feel and the same kind of family connection.
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Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
I was browsing used books and a title caught my eye. An Unfinished Life, by Mark Spragg. Something seemed familiar but I couldn't place it. I looked at it very briefly. There was a back cover endorsement by Jim Harrison, which I didn't bother to read. Harrison wrote Legends of the Fall, so his name as an endorsement was good enough for me.

I began to read. Spragg is an excellent storyteller and in the opening chapters there were two separate story lines that seemed to be moving towards each other. There were some elements of the story that seemed familiar, and one of the characters reminded me of a role Morgan freeman played in a movie. Now what was the name of that movie? Then, about 85 pages into the book, it hit me. The move was An Unfinished Life! No wonder the title caught my attention and the character seemed like the one played by Freeman! They were one and the same!

That said, this is an excellent story, told in a captivating manner. The movie was pretty good, but this book is excellent. Spragg brings out things in the characters, in terms of both their actions and thoughts, that just isn't captured well in a screenplay or on film. The theme of reconciliation is played out in a way that is both beautiful and poignant. I invite you to read it for yourself. You won’t be disappointed. ( )
  BradKautz | Aug 24, 2014 |
Best book I have read in awhile. I looked at it to see what Nancy Stauffer might mean by "utterly sprung to life characters." Got it. I, like the other old men in the book, am completely smitten by the 10 year old brave little girl. Wonder what Spragg is doing next and what it would take to get him to Torrey House. ( )
  torreyhouse | Feb 12, 2014 |
I was a little dismayed when I found out that Spragg was already working on the script for the film version before he had actually finished the novel, but overall I fell under the spell of this tale of a family in disrepair. ( )
  hayduke | Apr 3, 2013 |
This is a great read! Another story of a single mother and a remarkable daughter. What is it about single mothers and their daughters?? This is the story of Jean and Griff, her daughter. Jean has bounced from one awful man to another. Roy, the last boyfriend, beats her and Griff finally convinces mom to leave him - to leave Iowa. They take off for the ocean - but their car spontaneously combusts near Estherville. They have enough money to catch the bus to the little hole in the wall town in Wyoming where Jean grew up and to the grandfather that Griff never knew she had.

There is bad - awful bad- blood between Jean and Einar, the grandfather. But, Griff is just what the relationship needed. Griff is the unpretentious little girl that sees all and quietly helps the situation.

Jean is only agreeing to stay for a month. Mitch, the black cowboy that Einar has cared for since a bear mauling, becomes Griff's friend and slowly things begin to work out. Until the night the Einar sees Jean in his dead wife's dress. Words are said, Jean runs again but this time Griff puts down her foot and runs back to the ranch.

Life gets interesting as a bear freeing escapade goes wrong, Roy shows up again ready for blood and Jean finds out that life in a small town can be utterly amazing- everyone is watching out for you!

Anyway - i really liked it. It was a bit predictable, but the language is beautiful and you really like Griff - like her a lot. And the secrets that all the main characters keep are dooled out slowly - you get to savor the knowledge, just like Griff does.

Quick and fun read.
  kebets | Dec 31, 2012 |
Another fabulous book by Spragg. ( )
  peartreebooks | Jun 18, 2010 |
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For Virginia, because of Virginia, always, and for Kent and Cathy Haruf, and Nancy Stauffer, with my love
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0099472198, Paperback)

Jean Gilkyson is living 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 her loved ones are dead, and her father-in-law wishes she was too. For a decade, Einar Gilkyson has blamed her for the accident that took his son's life, and has chosen to go on living himself largely because his oldest friend couldn't otherwise survive. Bound together like brothers since the Korean War, their intimacy is even more acute since a bear horribly crippled Mitch. Griff knows none of this, but once she encounters this grandfather she'd never heard about, and the black cowboy confined to the bunkhouse, she attempts to turn grievous loss, wrath and recrimination towards reconciliation and love.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:56:02 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

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 this-only 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 recrimination to which she's naturally the most vulnerable toward 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.… (more)

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