A Quiet Life
by Ethan Joella
Thank you to NetGalley and Scribner for the chance to review this book.
It’s not everyday that you find a book that sticks with you. These are the ones that you find yourself thinking about long after you’ve turned the last page. Despite my terrible memory, I will often think of some aspect of a particular book years after I’ve read it. Some books have that great of an impact on your life.
It’s not everyday that a book sticks with you, but it’s also not uncommon. What IS uncommon, however, is when an AUTHOR sticks with you. These are the authors whose books each seem to be a mirror into your soul. After reading his debut novel, A Little Hope, a few months ago, I jumped at the chance to read Ethan Joella’s new novel A Quiet Life. Not only has each book stuck with me, but he has quickly become an author whose works I will automatically buy.
A Quiet Life follows three characters whose lives intermingle. Chuck is an older man who recently lost his wife, Catherine (Cat), to cancer. He is lost without the love of his life, but he is also too proud and broken to relay his feelings to his family. His thoughts keep on drifting to the only major fight he had with Cat, where he refused to let her invite a young waitress, Natasha, come stay with them in an apartment on their property. The fight caused a rift between Chuck and Cat for weeks, but the hard feelings naturally dissipated without them talking about the incident. Now, Chuck is left with his regrets and his memories as he tries to decide whether to go to Hilton Head, SC for their annual winter vacation rental. Every time Chuck feels like he is taking a step forward (he even tries to adopt a pig!), his sadness creeps in and leaves him feeling like he can’t continue on without Cat.
Kirsten is a young woman in her 20s who works at a pet rescue center. Her dreams of going to veterinary school are put on hold when her father is murdered during a gas station robbery. She knows she is young and has her whole life ahead of her, but she feels unable to move on from her father’s death. She has a crush on her boss, David, a divorced father of two who is a decade older than her. After David takes her skiing one night, she wonders if there is something there. Then, she hangs out with her other co-worker, Greyson, and things change. Kirsten is standing at a fork in the road trying to decide between two good men representing very different paths. Does she want a safe, simple life with David and his kids, or does she want a life full of passion and adventure with Greyson?
Ella is recently separated from her husband, Kyle. One day, she discovers that Kyle has checked out her daughter, Riley, from school, and her nightmare begins. Kyle has kidnapped Riley, and they have disappeared without a trace. Unable to find Riley’s whereabouts, Ella is a shell of herself, barely making it through her day. To fill the long hours, she works two jobs: One as a newspaper delivery woman, and one as a bridal sale consultant. Her life changes when she begins talking to the sad-looking man on her route, Chuck. However, nothing will ever be the same without Riley by her side.
Anyone who has ever experienced the loss of someone close will be deeply touched by this book. I lost my dad back in 2019, so Kirsten’s memories made my heart swell with emotion. I could picture my dad’s quirkiness and giant personality through her description of her father. Like A Little Hope, A Quiet Life discusses the feelings of longing, pain, and sweetness that accompany grief. My favorite part of the book, however, was how Joella intermingled the story lines from the very beginning. Ella delivers Chuck’s newspaper. Kirsten’s favorite teacher in school was Chuck’s wife, which caused her family to invite them over a few times when Cat was still alive. Ella is David’s neighbor, which results in Kirsten encountering her one day and asking for a ride to Chuck’s house. Each character is harboring their grief while interacting with each other, not knowing that the other person can intimately identify with what they are going through. It serves as a reminder that we never know what the people around us are dealing with in their lives, and we share much more in common with our friends and neighbors than we realize.
This was an easy five-star rating for me. Even the cover art is a beautiful nod to the characters’ stories. Be prepared to feel tears prickle your eyes throughout the book. You’ll want to give your loved ones a hug and soak up the memories around you. In the meantime, I look forward to more books by Ethan Joella in the future.
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