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.