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Book Review: ‘An Unfinished Life’

August 09, 2019 by Abigail Bostwick

Forgiveness and the meaning of unconventional family are at the heart of Mark Spragg’s novel, “An Unfinished Life.” 

In a difficult and complex and unwanted — by all parties — homecoming, 9-year-old fiercely-independent, sharp and wary Griff accompanies her mother, Jean, as she leaves an abusive boyfriend to move several states over to find a grandfather she never knew she had, or wanted. 

This story’s main strength is Griff, an irrepressible little girl who comes to break the exterior of her grandfather, Einar, and his best friend, Mitch, who lives on the Wyoming property that has been in the family for years. 

Einar is an aging rancher, unwavering in his attitude and outlook on the world, irrevocably changed since his son, Griffin, died in a car accident nearly a decade ago. Unable to forgive, he has stayed primarily in the small town on the land that is his property helping Mitch, a fellow rancher disabled after a bear mauling in his younger years. Despite the unyielding pain and a forever-changed life, Mitch maintains a stronger outlook on life and when young Griff arrives, the two take to each other before she and Einar will manage to. 

Compounding the matter is Jean was at the wheel when the car crashed. Jean disappeared and none of the family had seen each other since that time. Tensions are high when Jean and young Griff show up on Einar’s doorstep, yet he does not turn them away. Every person in this novel is raw and wounded from their trauma and subsequent lives trying to move forward. 

Wyoming is painted as a distant and wild expanse of land. The citizens of its town are tight-knit and caring of each other, yet respectful of each others privacy and space. This is a novel of the oak-hard truth of seeing life through, emotional change, finding forgiveness where one never imagined there could be, and forging bonds that go beyond years or experience. Ultimately, “An Unfinished Life” is novel of coming, and finding, home. Its prose is engaging and considerable without being over-flourished or sappy. It is a page-turner in an unconventional way. 

While I rarely watch a movie before reading a book, this was a movie I caught on television many years ago before realizing it was a novel. The young actor who portrays Griff, Becca Gardner, along with the powerhouse acting of Robert Redford and Morgan Freeman, and the filming in the remote wilderness made for an excellent adaptation of this novel. 

“They call ‘em accidents because it’s nobody’s fault.”

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