Title: Still Life by Christa Parrish
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Fiction
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Ada escaped her family’s self-enclosed world to elope with a mysterious stranger. Five months later, she’s a widow in a strange new world.
Ada was born into a fringe religious sect named for her father, The Prophet. But her lifelong habit of absolute obedience was shattered when she fled the family compound to elope with photographer Julian Goetz.
Katherine Walker’s marriage was a sham. She and Will rarely spoke without yelling—and never touched. Her affair brings her both escape and guilt.
When a tragic plane crash takes Julian from Ada and exacerbates Katherine’s sense of shame, both women become desperately unsure of where they belong in the world—until the devotion of an artistic young boy conspires to bring them together.
From award-winning novelist Christa Parrish, Still Life is a cunningly complex work that captures themes of abusive religion, supernatural love, and merciful escape. It will resonate with anyone who has ever felt called to a drastic change—or tried to hear the small whisper of God’s voice.
Still Life is a poignant and captivating novel that is complex and riveting. It is a wonderfully written faith based story that does not shy away from difficult questions or sensitive subject matter. Christa Parrish takes her characters and readers on a beautiful journey of faith that is quite thought-provoking. While not all of the questions have answers, it is a very satisfying read that I absolutely loved and highly recommend.
Ada Goetz is unprepared for life in the aftermath of Julian’s tragic death. Growing up in an ultraconservative religious cult where her father demanded unquestioning obedience, Ada is unable to make the simplest of decisions and she is very fearful of her new surroundings. Her first instinct is to return to the religious compound, but she quickly realizes she cannot return to such a restrictive and abusive life. Needing some type of purpose and direction, Ada heeds God’s whisper and using her favorite photographs of Julian’s as her guide, she sets out on a healing and life altering journey where she meets the people from those photos.
Katherine Cramer is stunned to learn that her selfish decision saved her life, but she is incredibly ashamed that she chose her lover over her family. Looking back on the events that contributed to the distance between her and her husband, Will, she decides to re-dedicate herself to her faltering marriage. Just as she and Will begin picking up the tattered pieces of their marriage, her secret is discovered and threatens to tear her family apart .
Katherine’s son Evan feels the aftereffects of her affair most deeply. Born with a heart defect, Evan has been in and out of the hospital most of his young life. With the most of his health problems behind him, Katherine’s experience brings to the forefront a question both he and his mother have struggled with in the past: why do some people survive while others in the same situation do not? Is their survival part of God’s master plan? If so, what is their purpose? Evan turns to God for answers and when he learns of Katherine’s connection to Julian (a photographer he greatly admires), he is determined to seek forgiveness for her mother’s sins.
Part One of Still Life unfolds from Ada and Katherine’s points of view. The chapters alternate between the two women and Ada’s grief and fears are keenly felt. She is a very sympathetic character and while she at first feels a little unemotional and disconnected from Julian’s death, once her past is revealed, it is much easier to understand her reactions. At first, Katherine’s perspective does not exactly paint her in the most flattering light, but understanding all of the circumstances of her life does provide insight into what led to her affair. It does not excuse her decision but it does make her more human and easier to relate to.
Part Two of Still Life is an unexpected delight and provides readers with valuable background information about Julian, his career, his faith and his marriage to Ada. He is a genuinely kindhearted and truly selfless man and this makes his loss that much more tragic and senseless. This also adds another dimension to guilt that Katherine feels for her (perceived) role in his death.
Still Life is an outstanding novel that is sure to resonate with anyone who has ever struggled with their faith. Christa Parrish has a unique writing style that is quite engaging but what makes her stand out in the genre is her honesty in dealing with tough subject matter. Her characters are not always likable, but they are true to life with realistic flaws and imperfections. The storyline is moving and while not all of the loose ends are wrapped up, the conclusion is hopeful. It is an overall captivating read that fans of Christian fiction do not want to miss.