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Extended Audio Sample An Unfinished Life, 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 Mar Publisher: Highbridge Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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.”


  • “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 by 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 by 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 by 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 by 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. "

  • > Show All
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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.