From Publishers Weekly
An old rancher reluctantly takes in his daughter-in-law and granddaughter in this moving and well-crafted, if rather derivative, second novel by Spragg (The Fruit of Stone
). Jean Gilkyson hasn't been back to her hometown of Ishawooa, Wyo., since her husband, Griffin, died in a car accident. Jean was driving, and Griffin's father, Einar, has never forgiven her for his son's death. Ten years and four boyfriends later, Jean has run out of money and options. With her precocious nine-year-old daughter, Griff, she escapes boyfriend number four, a smirking brute named Roy. Einar isn't happy to see mother or daughter, but Griff loves his log house and ranch life. She makes friends right away with Mitch, Einar's old Vietnam War buddy, who's been mauled by a grizzly and is horribly scarred, and gradually wins over her grandfather. Meanwhile, Jean is charming the town sheriff, which comes in handy when Roy tracks her down. Spragg's spare storytelling is rock solid, but he covers well-worn territory in language familiar to readers of Cormac McCarthy and Kent Haruf, never quite striking off on his own.
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An Unfinished Life
follows on the heels of Spraggs memoir about growing up on a Wyoming ranch, Where Rivers Change Direction
, and his Western debut, The Fruits of Stone
. This latest effort, which raises comparisons to Kent Harufs Plainsong
(*** July/Aug 2004), delves into the world of fractured families. Memorable secondary characters contribute a great deal of spirit to this emotionally charged story of love, loss, betrayal, and reconciliation. Although most critics adored An Unfinished Life
for its concise language, fast-paced plotting, and Western feel, a few criticized its predictable romance and untidy ending. And, most mourned its Hollywood qualitiesyes, it will soon hit the big screen, with Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman, and Jennifer Lopez.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.