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Extended Audio Sample An Unfinished Life Audiobook, by Mark Spragg Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,356 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Mark Spragg Narrator: Tony Amendola, Judith Marx Publisher: Highbridge Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: August 2004 ISBN: 9781598871470
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Jean Gilkyson, pregnant when her husband was killed, is raising their daughter, Griff, in an Iowa trailer house with yet another brutal boyfriend when she realizes this can’t go on. But the only refuge available is a town in Wyoming where her loved ones are dead and her father-in-law wishes she was, too.

For a decade he has blamed her for his son’s death, choosing to go on living largely because his oldest friend couldn’t survive otherwise. Bound as close as brothers, they face old age on a faltering ranch, their interdependence even more acute after one was crippled and the other mauled by his own pain.

Suddenly Griff meets this grandfather she’d never heard about, not to mention a black cowboy confined to the bunkhouse, and irrepressibly claims her new life in hopes of turning grievous loss and recrimination toward reconciliation and love.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “I can’t get more than a few pages into a novel unless the prose is good. In Mark Spragg’s An Unfinished Life, the writing is of considerable grace and beauty, plus there’s a compelling tale of the New West which at times is an uncomfortable page turner where you are standing on the sidelines rooting for your heartbreaking favorites.”

    Jim Harrison

  • “Mark Spragg invents characters that are as richly drawn and lovingly rendered as the landscape in which he sets them down. An Unfinished Life is honest, engaged, deeply satisfying, and full of an uncanny grace that resides both in the beauty of the language and in these valuable lives.”

    Pam Houston

  • An Unfinished Life has dysfunction and menace and clipped, big-sky dialogue that’s as spare as Cormac McCarthy’s work but with a warmer patina. The carefully placed story hides surprising flashes of humor inside telling detail.”

    USA Today

  • “Spragg, with consummate skill, uses people and places we don’t know to teach us something about ourselves. He explores human bonds, the difficulty of core change, and ultimately the need for forgiveness if a person is to be emotionally whole…An Unfinished Life is a deft contemplation of completion, of change, and of coming home.”

    Denver Post

  • “Intensely human, gently probing the longing for family and the inescapable grip of the past. Swiftly shifting perspectives lend the novel a pleasing dynamism.”

    Christian Science Monitor

  • “Rich with ancillary characters worked into his elaborate plots…When all the scattered elements of the story coalesce in strange and wondrous ways, so logical yet so unexpected, we are tempted to use a western idiom and state that Mark Spragg has put his brand on realistic Western novels in our time.”

    St. Louis Post-Dispatch

  • “One of those once-in-a-blue-moon type novels that takes convention and stands it on its head…Filled with often poetic meditations about the love we hold for those who have died—what sort of role their memories play in our lives—and the importance of laying the past to rest while moving into the future.”

    St. Petersburg Times

  • “The tension lies in the interior life Spragg creates for his characters. They are believably raw and wounded. And, above all, redeemable.”

    New York Daily News

  • “Spragg writes in the man’s man literary school of Hemingway and Tom McGuane, where valor, brevity, and minor epiphanies still count for something, yet An Unfinished Life’s strength lies in its characters. It’s best one is the irrepressible little girl, Griff, barely beating out the two old coots, bitter Einar and handicapped Mitch, who talk with winning honesty while struggling through their ablutions and medical ministrations…An Unfinished Life makes you yearn for more of these characters and their prescient talk.”

    Oregonian

  • “Ever since I became the books editor at the Kansas City Star in March 2000, folks have been asking me to recommend a reading experience as clean and sharp as Kent Haruf’s Plainsong…Finally, I have an answer. His name is Mark Spragg, his new novel is An Unfinished Life.”

    John Mark Eberhart, Kansas City Star

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sandra | 2/18/2014

    " Mother & daughter leave Griff, her abuser bf to return to gr fathers home. Grandfather finds peace, and forgives. Good read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cathy | 2/17/2014

    " I enjoyed this book very much, but I do think the end felt a bit rushed compared to the rest of it. It felt like the author wasn't sure how he wanted to end it and finally just threw his hands up and said "OK, this is it, I'm done" and left it a bit sketchy. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Nancy | 2/7/2014

    " I really enjoyed this book, even the end when it got a little predictable. I pictured the grandfather as Lorna's Uncle and the little girl as Lorna. They had a really lovely relationship. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ginny | 1/29/2014

    " Things are not always what they seem. Love can take many forms and we just need to be open to forgiveness to find real abiding love. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Natascha | 1/22/2014

    " Normally I would like the book better than the movie. Not this time "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nina | 1/21/2014

    " This is a fantastic story with great character development. It is an easy read and I was drawn rather quickly. Do not get discouraged with the depressing start--this book satisfies as it progresses. It reminds me a bit of the movie "Second Hand Lions." "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dayne | 1/18/2014

    " Mark Spragg is a very talented writer. He lovingly develops his characters and his landscapes. A simple and honest tale of life and loves loss are told with a sympathetic, but practical voice. All I can say is, I want to read everything written my Mr. Spragg. I have already read "Fruit of Stone" and loved it. Next on my list "Where Rivers Change Direction." "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jane | 1/15/2014

    " A solid, well-written story with compelling characters. Set in Wyoming. If ever I could get my husband to read a novel, this might be it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gail | 1/14/2014

    " Beautifully written story with shades of Kent Haruf. Simple prose and courageous characters who fight to find redemption. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Michele | 1/14/2014

    " Read it with one of my book clubs. I enjoyed the character development, especially between Griff and Einar. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Brigitte Campbell | 1/6/2014

    " This book was okay. It had it's moments when I really enjoyed it but felt the end wasn't complete. Must be why there's a sequel... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Taylor | 12/28/2013

    " Incredible story. I think I have a new favorite author. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kris Mccauley | 12/27/2013

    " I really liked this book. Very well written, one of the best books i have read this year. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kimm | 12/18/2013

    " 3.5 for this one. I enjoyed the book but felt like the author only scratched the surface of the emotion/healing process these characters embodied. I would have liked to have had more of that. But all in all, a good one. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Gayle | 12/14/2013

    " 3 stars because I found it sort of choppy to read. Wasn't very smooth. Story line was okay, predicable (to me, anyway) at the end. Love the little girl in this book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Matt Trussell | 12/14/2013

    " One of my all time faves "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alice | 11/28/2013

    " I liked this story when I saw the movie, and reading the book made me like it more. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Maralee | 10/31/2013

    " I knew nothing about this book when I picked it up and was pleasantly surprised! The characters are fascinating, the tension well built and the story sometimes heartbreaking. They supposedly made a movie on this book so I want to look for that!!! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carol | 9/13/2013

    " Similar to books like Plain-Song -- which I liked a lot -- families losing and finding each other -- "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Howard | 1/7/2013

    " A great book about complex loss and flawed characters.Spragg draws wonderful characters.....Griff and Einar stand out... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sarah | 12/16/2012

    " Gripping from the start. I started yesterday and I'll be finished by today. Finished it - liked it, am very glad it's not my life. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mary | 11/2/2012

    " One of the best books i've ever read. Just re-read it. Spragg can get into the head of each one of the characters and make them come to life. His style is so straightforward and beautifully descriptive at the same time. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Claudias Ramirez | 8/9/2012

    " I really liked this book it was very good and the movie was great we all liked it, it was just very good. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mary | 7/21/2012

    " A gooder I just happened upon. Set in WY a little girl helps 2 old men. Very well written. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Vicki Mollenauer | 7/6/2012

    " Loved it, especiallly Griff. My favorite quote from the novel is, "She didn't say anything else, because when her mother doesn't know she's lying to herself it's not a good time to point it out." (p. 147) "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jo Deurbrouck | 7/2/2012

    " (Just a note to me that I got this book from Mike...or at least I think I did!) "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Martha | 5/19/2012

    " This guy can write! His ability to make you feel the characters' emotions and see the landscapes in which they live in brilliant! I will read every word he ever writes forever. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Beth | 1/15/2012

    " Loved the book. Disappointed in the movie. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Annie | 10/26/2011

    " I love this author's writing. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 jeanette | 9/29/2011

    " i really liked this book told from the prospective of a 10 year old girl about her life with her mom. meeting a grandfather she did not know. very touching. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Becky C. | 8/8/2011

    " Did this one in a book discussion. Very strong sense of place. I loved the way the author described the gradual unfolding of the relationship between Einar and Griff. I'd suggest this to anyone who liked Peace Like a River. Made into a pretty good movie with Robert Redford and Jennifer Lopez. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ellison Kuhne Andert | 7/6/2011

    " Almost as good as the movie. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Carol | 6/22/2011

    " Grandpa does have a soft spot in his heart after all. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Erin | 4/30/2011

    " Just read it, and see if you don't fall in love with a tough-as-nails little girl named Griff. Dare you. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Harry | 3/30/2011

    " Fully developed characters and an engaging plot. A book you can get emotionally involved in. Highly recommended. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ellen | 3/3/2011

    " Very much an American story. Sad in parts but also triumphant. A good study of the human spirit. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carol | 1/31/2011

    " Similar to books like Plain-Song -- which I liked a lot -- families losing and finding each other -- "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jill | 1/22/2011

    " Beautiful characters I didn't want to let go of. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Michele | 1/14/2011

    " Read it with one of my book clubs. I enjoyed the character development, especially between Griff and Einar. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Shan | 1/12/2011

    " This is one of the best books I've ever read. Great character development, strong story line, well written, very believable! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nina | 1/11/2011

    " This is a fantastic story with great character development. It is an easy read and I was drawn rather quickly. Do not get discouraged with the depressing start--this book satisfies as it progresses. It reminds me a bit of the movie "Second Hand Lions." "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Caitlin | 1/3/2011

    " Given the book as a birthday gift from my mom after loving the movie. Great read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 jeanette | 11/17/2010

    " i really liked this book told from the prospective of a 10 year old girl about her life with her mom. meeting a grandfather she did not know. very touching. "

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About the Author
Author Mark Spragg

Mark Spragg is the author of Where Rivers Change Direction, a memoir that won the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Award, and the novels The Fruit of Stone and An Unfinished Life, which was chosen by the Rocky Mountain News as the Best Book of 2004. All three were top-ten Book Sense selections. He lives with his wife in Wyoming.