A boy struggling to process an unexpected loss believes he has been given a series of clues to the biggest puzzle of all—the meaning of life—in this deeply felt debut novel.

“An exquisitely beautiful and compelling novel about love, loss, and life.”—Rachel Joyce, New York Times bestselling author of Miss Benson’s Beetle

Meet Ollie. He’s eleven years old. He hasn’t yet met a Killer Sudoku he can’t solve, but he finds the world around him difficult. People don’t say what they mean, and he hates being wrong. And now, a sudden tragedy teaches him there is no easy answer to the problem of grief. 

When Ollie’s happy-go-lucky father, Rich, dies of brain cancer, his mother, Ruth, has no idea how to keep living, and the entire family is thrown into disarray. The only thing that makes sense to Ollie is the puzzle he’s convinced his father left behind: one gift for each member of the family. If Ollie can find the connection between a pink vase and an old pair of binoculars, then somehow he’ll discover the secret he believes Rich wanted to share with them all: what it means to be alive.

Interweaving the voices of each character in turn, this deeply felt novel paints a portrait of a family learning to come together through the darkest times, and it is a poignant yet ultimately uplifting meditation on grief, healing, and love.
“A beautifully written and endlessly touching debut that’s sure to tug your heartstrings.”—Phaedra Patrick, author of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper

“Harriet Kline’s This Shining Life captivated me because it’s peopled with lovely and lovable characters who are all trying to solve the problem of grief. Ollie, at eleven years old, sees this equation in the starkest terms, but his mother, Ruth, Aunt Nessa, and grandparents are all struggling, too, following the death of Ollie’s dad, Rich. This beautiful book shows us that grief is not a problem to solve but an expression of love, as we watch a family come together in the most heartwarming way.”—Ann Napolitano, New York Times bestselling author of Dear Edward

“Poignant but never maudlin, sweet but never saccharine, This Shining Life gives us a heartbroken family, complicated and familiar in the best ways, going through the hardest of times but finding love and hope and, especially, one another.”—Laurie Frankel, New York Times bestselling author of This Is How It Always Is

“Harriet Kline gifts us with an authentic child’s voice, and a sensitive exploration of not only the pain but the beauty of grief.”—Rajeev Balasubramanyam, author of Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss

“Harriet Kline masterfully captures how differently grief can manifest itself in each of us, how all-consuming and life-altering it sometimes can be. I felt deeply for each of these characters as they embarked on their journeys through Rich’s illness and passing, and of course the aftermath. I loved Ollie and often wanted to reach through the pages to hug and comfort him. This story is sure to stay with me for a long time.”—Rhiannon Navin, author of Only Child

“An exquisitely beautiful and compelling novel about love, loss, and life.”—Rachel Joyce, New York Times bestselling author of Miss Benson’s Beetle

“[A] careful and affectionate portrayal of a family coping with loss . . . With every hard-earned realization, Kline offers a sense of awe, which is so necessary in this fraught time.”Booklist
(starred review)


“Poignant . . . [An] assured first novel . . . with a crisp pace, complex characters, and an unflinching depiction of how grief can blindside us . . . Kline captures the difficulty of navigating grief in its myriad forms, she finds mordant humor as well as tenderness in its domain, and she doesn’t shy from showing how it can bring out the worst in us as well as the best.”Kirkus Reviews