Thursday, July 27, 2023

Review: A Quiet Life by Ethan Joella

I heard nothing but rave reviews for Ethan Joella's sophomore novel, A Quiet Life, so I pickd it up in hardcover. It is exactly as it claims on the tin: a quiet life. It is a slow, introspective story about grief and loss and life.

Chuck, an older man who lost his wife to cancer and finds himself emotionally unable to go on the vacation they took together every year, Kirsten, a young woman whose whole life trajectory changed after her father's senseless death in a gas station shooting, and Ella, a hardworking, single mother whose young daughter has been kidnapped by her ex, all come together in this emotionally resonant story. None of these three know what to do with their grief and guilt, or, indeed, with their futures. All of them are stuck and suffering, trying to put one foot in front of the other.

All three characters are ordinary people and although no loss is the same, each of them is in a similar holding pattern. The novel is quite character driven, and rotates between the three characters' stories. The eventual intersections between the characters are convenient in that small town Hallmark movie sort of way and the book does read a bit like a heartwarming movie. The characters were often not much more than their struggles and the introspective writing means this likely won't be particularly memorable for me. The pacing was uneven with the ending speeding up significantly and it was predictably satisfying, the latter of which can be good or bad depending on your reading mood. If you're looking for a hopeful novel about people healing themselves with the help of community, you'll find what you're looking for in the pages of this one.

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