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A Scattered Life Paperback – August 23, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (August 23, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547745001
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547745008
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (599 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #437,418 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Book Description: “Most people have everything they need to be happy.” The words latched onto some part of Skyla’s brain. She repeated the phrase to herself while she rang up books and stocked shelves. It had a certain resonance to it, but she doubted it was true.

Free-spirit Skyla Plinka has found the love and stability she always wanted in her reliable husband Thomas. Settling into her new family and roles as wife and mother, life in rural Wisconsin is satisfying, but can’t seem to quell Skyla’s growing sense of restlessness. Her only reprieve is her growing friendship with neighbor Roxanne, who has five kids (and counting) and a life in constant disarray – but also a life filled with laughter and love.

Much to the dismay of her intrusive mother-in-law, Audrey, Skyla takes a part-time job at the local bookstore and slowly begins to rediscover her voice, independence and confidence. Throughout one pivotal year in the life of Skyla, Audrey and Roxanne, all three very different women will learn what it means to love unconditionally. With the storytelling ingenuity of Anne Tyler, the writing talent of Jodi Picoult, and the subtlty of Alice Munro, McQuestion offers a satisfying debut that proves she is a gifted portraitist, a natural storyteller and an author to watch.

Amazon Exclusive: Carolyn Parkhurst Reviews A Scattered Life

Carolyn Parkhurst is the author of the bestselling novels The Dogs of Babel and Lost and Found, and recently published the acclaimed novel The Nobodies Album. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and their two children. Read her exclusive guest review of Karen McQuestion's A Scattered Life:

A Scattered Life is the kind of novel you’ll want to recommend to a friend without quite knowing how: as soon as you begin to say what the book is "about," all of the possible descriptions seem either too small or too big for the story contained in those pages.

You might say, "It’s about friendship and family dynamics and the unexpected ways our actions influence the trajectories of other people’s lives." Or "It’s about a woman who’s doing her best to make the life she has into the life she wants to live." And it’s your 7th grade book report on The Red Pony all over again: your description isn’t inaccurate, but it doesn’t come close to conveying the book’s gravity and substance, the particular pleasure you get from immersing yourself in this novel, as opposed to any other.

So you might try getting more specific: "Okay, the main character is a woman named Skyla Plinka. She’s married and lives in the suburbs and has a little girl, and her life is all very ordered and predictable, which she likes, because her childhood was tough and she’s always craved stability. She clashes a little bit with her mother-in-law, Audrey, who has different ideas about how a wife and mother should run her home and who would like to be more involved in her life than Skyla is comfortable with. But then a new family moves in next door, and Skyla strikes up a friendship with her new neighbor Roxanne, who’s brash and charismatic and has five kids and just loves living in the kind of messy chaos that they create..." And you realize you’ve gone too far in the other direction, zooming in on the details of an individual tree, while ignoring the vastness and beauty of the forest.

So here’s how I’m going to recommend A Scattered Life: From the very first sentence--"Skyla’s earliest memory of Thomas was linked with the smell of beer and the taste of blood"--Karen McQuestion had me right where she wanted me. Right away, I was there with Skyla, curious about who she was and what choices she’d made, and ready to live her life for a while, instead of my own.

McQuestion has a talent for creating characters who are layered and subtle, flawed and ordinary and exceptional, in the way we all are. The book alternates between the viewpoints of the three women--Skyla, Roxanne and Audrey--and their incomplete and refracted perspectives come together to form a narrative that’s fuller and more complex than the story any one of them might tell on her own.

McQuestion writes with a sharp eye and a sure voice, and as a reader, I was willing to go wherever she wanted to take me. After I finished the book, I thought about how I might describe it to a friend, and I settled on a phrase that says a lot without saying very much at all. It’s the way these conversations usually end: "You should read this. It’s good." --Carolyn Parkhurst


--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Booklist

McQuestion’s debut novel focuses on three women in a peaceful Wisconsin suburb. Young mother Skyla found stability when she married staid math teacher Thomas, but with their four-year-old daughter, Nora, starting school, Skyla is yearning for friendship and purpose. She finds the latter in a job at a small local bookstore and the former in her new neighbor Roxanne Bear. Roxanne, a boisterous woman in her early thirties who has five children, yearns to expand her brood despite the reservations of her husband, Ted. Skyla’s mother-in-law, Audrey, longs to be a bigger part of her granddaughter’s life, but Skyla and Thomas hold her at a distance. Pushed to the point of desperation, Audrey starts spying on her daughter-in-law, and finds herself envious of Skyla’s friendship with Roxanne, which causes her to commit a serious transgression. A late-in-the-game tragedy feels engineered to invoke tears, but readers looking for a quiet tale about women learning to manage their expectations and find joy in unexpected places will enjoy this sweet read. --Kristine Huntley --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

More About the Author

Karen McQuestion has written books for kids, teens, and adults, and is published in print, ebook, and audio through Amazon Publishing, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Brilliance Audio. Many of her titles have spent time on the top 100 Kindle list. Her publishing story has been covered by the Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly, and the national NPR show, The Story with Dick Gordon. She has also appeared on ABC's World News Now and America This Morning. She lives with her husband and kids in Hartland, Wisconsin.

From Karen: To be notified when new books are released, please sign up for my email newsletter at www.karenmcquestion.com





Customer Reviews

It is beautifully written, well paced, with characters who seem real.
New Jersey Mom
There is something simplistic about her characters, which made them seem like basic stereotypes right away, and that's boring.
A. Thompson
There are twists that kept me reading well past my bedtime...I was sad when the book ended.
Kay

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

299 of 317 people found the following review helpful By Imogen Rose VINE VOICE on August 10, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Three women living a small-town life in Wisconsin. Karen McQuestion's novel is narrated by these three voices. The first, Skyla Plinska, a former free-spirit, now firmly seeded into a middle-class life with her level-headed husband and their well-behaved daughter. The second is Skyla's mother-in-law, Audrey. Audrey has spent her life caring for her now three grown-up sons and husband, but always longing for a daughter. Will Skyla fill this void? The third is Roxy, Skyla's new neighbor and friend. Roxy is totally obsessed with her five sons and longs for more children, particularly a daughter.

Karen McQuestion draws us into the life of these three women in an engaging and easy fashion. The story line is entertaining and touching on many different levels, as each of the characters are fleshed out and their personalities and quirks revealed. I am very much looking forward to the movie adaptation of this novel. Thanks for a great read, Karen.
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163 of 173 people found the following review helpful By J. Grattan VINE VOICE on August 22, 2010
Format: Paperback
In this nice, but unremarkable, story set in small-town Wisconsin, the lives of three women are followed for about a year. Skyla, after a childhood of moving around the country with her father, has settled down with Thomas and has a six-year-old daughter; Audrey is Thomas' mother and is obsessed with keeping order in her and others' lives; and Roxanne, who exudes friendliness, has just moved in next door to Skyla with her five children and a clearly messy and chaotic life in full display. Skyla with her long-repressed artistic side is immediately attracted to the free-spirited Roxanne, much to the dismay of Audrey.

But things change for these women. Skyla takes a job in a nearly defunct book store and virtually single-handedly turns it around. Leaving her daughter Nora to be cared for by Roxanne after school distresses Audrey no end, which she intends to do something about. However, the unexpected intervenes in both Roxanne's and Audrey's lives. Especially, Skyla and Audrey are forced to question stances that they have taken in their lives. It is a book that has the intent of exploring personal growth, understanding others, and learning what is important.

The book is not without its appeal but lacks depth and breadth. The characters are not fully developed; they seldom rise beyond being stereotypes. After a couple of events, the story just fizzles out. The book is easily read, but just does not really try for much. Nonetheless, it is a fairly pleasant and heartwarming story, though tragedy does stalk.
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149 of 160 people found the following review helpful By New Jersey Mom on November 9, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I wasn't sure what to expect from an independently published novel, but figured for $1.99 (less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks!) I could take a chance.

I am so glad that I did. This is a remarkable book. It is beautifully written, well paced, with characters who seem real. It easily ranks with books published by the big houses, and is in fact considerably better than many books I have read (and I read quite a lot).

I hope that Ms. McQuestion is picked up by the big publishing houses as she has a true gift. I would love to recommend this book to several people, but as they don't own Kindles they won't be able to read the book. That is a shame, as her books could and should have a wide audience.

I will certainly be trying out McQuestion's other books available on Kindle.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A. Thompson on September 19, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I stopped trying to get into this story after a few chapters. I wanted to like the book because the story seemed interesting. But for me, a book has to have two things to keep me interested: excellent character development and beautiful writing. I love several books where plot seems to be an after thought, but because the characters leap from the pages, I'm entranced. I can't keep plugging along with a book just to find out what happens. I couldn't find a flow with the writing style and found myself having to reread paragraphs because my mind would wander away from the story. There is something simplistic about her characters, which made them seem like basic stereotypes right away, and that's boring.
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77 of 89 people found the following review helpful By Kay on October 13, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition
This was a compelling, heartwarming, thought-provoking read. The characters are real -- complicated and flawed but still likable, even those who do unlikable things. (I want to move to this small town and become friends with the main character!) There are twists that kept me reading well past my bedtime...I was sad when the book ended.

I hope the author gets picked up by a big publishing house, because I think this book could stand with any of the bestsellers in women's fiction. And then I could say that I read her when she was selling her novels for $1.99 on Kindle.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Principessa di Cucina on November 2, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
What a book ... I cannot explain how great it was to read "A Scattered Life" and how it touched my heart. Right from the very beginning I was captured by the characters portrayed, and how it made me feel like they were part of my own life. I immediately could place myself in each of the family settings and felt like I became part of their families and friends. The book is exciting, funny, sad, and also made me shed some tears. I have read many books since getting my Kindle, and I have to admit ... this authors books take the lead! And, the price is right.

I have read all three of this authors books: "A Scattered Life", "Easily Amused" and "Lies I Told My Children". All are great, and I can't wait until her next book becomes available, which I'm hoping is right around the corner. If you haven't read any of Karen's books, don't wait. You, too, will be amazed how wonderful her books are to read. Karen McQuestion is now my favorite author, and I will be having withdrawal until her next book is released.
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