Thursday 8 July 2021

This Shining Life by Harriet Kline BLOG TOUR @HareandHarriet @DoubledayUK @RandomTTours #ThisShiningLife


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.

Harriet Kline weaves together the voices of a grieving family and paints an achingly beautiful picture of love in all its forms: absent, lost and, ultimately, regained.

This Shining Life by Harriet Kline was published on 1 July 2021 by Doubleday. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review, as part of this #RandomThingsTours blog tour. 

This Shining Life is a beautifully written novel that takes a look at the complexities of family life. It reveals the intricacies of human relationships, and how one person can affect the others in such different ways. 

Rich is a teacher, in his late forties. Married to Ruth, they have one son; eleven-year-old Ollie. Ollie is a special little boy. He loves puzzles, he hates hugs. He can't bear to feel a loose thread in his socks and needs to have the same schedule for his rotation of breakfasts. Toast, porridge, jam, honey .. on the correct days and in the correct order. Ollie is autistic and can be challenging. However, Rich has the knack and can usually calm him down, with laughter and with puzzles. 

Rich has a brain tumour and is going to die. 

The story is told in time splits; during the prognosis and spread of the illness and then, after Rich dies. We hear from those closest to Rich. Ollie and his mum Ruth. Ruth's sister Nessa and their mother Angran, and then Rich's own parents; 'other grandma and grandpa'. It's a wonderful way to structure a novel, enabling the reader to feel the impact that Rich's passing has on those that loved him the most. 

Poor Ollie is determined to solve the puzzle that he thinks Rich left for him; 'what does it mean to be alive?'. Ollie's obsession with this question leads to the other characters just becoming more and more annoyed with him, whilst they all know that Ollie's brain works in a different way, their own grief makes it very difficult for them to take the time to contemplate just what Ollie is asking, and why.

Ruth's overwhelming grief leads to a deep depression and she begins to see herself in her mother Angran. Nessa and Ruth have always thought that their mother neglected them as children, but the current situation makes Ruth more aware of what Angran had to deal with as a young single mother. 

Other Grandma and Grandpa are also struggling. Grandpa is in the early stages of dementia and just cannot tolerate Ollie's quirkiness, often losing his temper or being extremely rude, but always so sad about his son's death. 

This is a story that really touched me. The characters are most certainly flawed, but oh so human. Grief is a thing that will affect us all during our lives, and we will all cope with it in different ways. There's no correct way, only our way and Harriet Kline explains this wonderfully through her poignant and tender writing. 

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

Twitter @HareandHarriet

Instagram @harriet_kline

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