Imagine, with me, standing beside a quiet pond with wave lapping almost imperceptibly. Imagine again seeing a pebble at your feet, just right for plopping into the water. As you drop the pebble into the water, you notice the ripples, small at first, then growing and fading. Then a flat rock catches your eye, and the urge to skip it across the water overwhelms you. The ripples grow, then intersect, overtaking each other until they lap on the shores of the pond.
As I read Christa Parrish's new novel, Still Life, this image came to my mind over and over again. There is never an action we take, a word we say, a choice we make, or a thought we think that does not create a ripple somewhere. Those ripples inevitably reach someone else and have effects on their lives. Nothing we do is isolated, ever.
Katherine is in Cleveland with her lover, Julian is trying to get home for his wife's birthday, the airplane is overbooked, and one simple act sets of a chain of ripples that can't be called back. Because Katherine gives her seat to Julian, she lives, but her life comes at a price far beyond her anticipation.
Katherine is a realtor, married to Will and involved in an affair with Thomas. Her younger son, Evan, is especially going to bear the brunt of the fallout from this relationship. Christa doesn't go into the whys or wherefores of the affair, she just drops the reader into the middle of it.
Julian is a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer who sees more than the just pictures he takes. His lens magnifies the world around him and allows those who view his photographs to see more than just the people in the prints. He's been married for just a few months, having rescued his wife from a spiritually abusive cult. She has never celebrated her birthday before and he wanted to show her his love in a new and special way.
Evan is Katherine and Will's younger son, born with a defective heart. Many of his early years were spent in hospitals and having surgeries. He loves Julian's work and has a couple of his prints in his bedroom. Julian is his inspiration and Julian's death is a huge blow to Evan.
Ada, Julian's wife, has no idea how to live without her husband. His sister comes in and takes over the funeral arrangements, her friends surround her almost to smothering, and she feels she has to find her feet. Her first thought is to go back to her home, but finds that totally unwelcoming. She begins looking up where the people are from her husband's pictures, finding the ripples that have intersected into her life.
Christa Parrish writes with a depth I've not encountered before. This is my first novel by her that I've read and I found it thought provoking, insightful, and with spiritual implications that every believer should heed. Her characters are well-developed with empathetic traits that make it easy to step into their shoes. Her settings reside in the background, but have enough detail to make them easy to imagine and only add to the color of the story.
I certainly would buy this book for a friend, and I have a friend to whom I recommend many books. This one will go on her list, and she tends to pass on my recommendations. I found this book appealing on many levels, especially the photography (I like to dabble in photography) and it will stay with me for a long, long time. There are many reminders throughout the book of the spiritual implications of our actions and reactions, reminders that should help us give second thoughts to the paths we are traveling. I'd love to see this book made into a movie, but I think it would lose some in translation. Christa did leave the ending of the book in such a way that allows her to write another to follow it, and I will look forward to it with abated breath.
Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a Pulitzer Prize winning photograph for your collection
Thomas Nelson has allowed me to read this book in exchange for my honest review.