Thursday, September 08, 2005


Mark Spragg’s
An Unfinished Life (2004)

The healing of a fractured family

THIS IS AS GOOD a time to talk about Mark Spragg’s An Unfinished Life (2004), considering the fact that the movie version of this novel hits theatres across North America on September 9, 2005. The movie is directed by Lasse Hallström [yes, the director of Peter Hedges’s What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), John Irving’s The Cider House Rules (1999), Joanne Harris’s Chocolat (2000) and E. Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News (2001)] and stars Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Lopez, Josh Lucas, Becca Gardner, Camryn Manheim and Damian Lewis. Advance reviews seem to suggest that the film adaptation is as good as the novel.

Reminiscent of Kent Haruf’s Plainsong (1999) and Eventide (2004), An Unfinished Life is a character-driven drama about the bruises of human relationships; more specifically, it’s about the unresolved grief of a man who has lost his son; it’s about love, hope, family, forgiveness and reconciliation. Spragg’s prose is spare, unadorned, yet elegant and poetic, his dialogue sparse and taut, and his characters are as deftly drawn and engaging as the sweeping vistas of Wyoming. There’s something about Wyoming that I find irresistible. Perhaps it’s the brutal splendour of the landscapes that take one’s breath away. Perhaps it’s the light, the colours, or the sagebrush that dots the wide open spaces. Perhaps it’s the big panoramic skies that go on forever. An Unfinished Life is a simple story that delves into the complexities of the human heart, one that leaves you understanding the human condition a little better.

SPRAGG Mark [1952-] Novelist, memoirist. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. NOVELS An Unfinished Life (2004); The Fruit of Stone (2002) MEMOIR Where Rivers Change Directions (1999) EDITED Thunder of the Mustangs (1998)

HARUF Kent [1943-] Novelist. Born in Pueblo, Colorado, U.S. NOVELS Eventide (2004); Plainsong (1999: shortlisted for the 1999 National Book Award); Where You Once Belonged (1990); The Tie That Binds (1984: winner of the 1986 Whiting Writers Award for Fiction)


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