Book Review: Still Life by Christa Parrish


Ada is born into a strict sect of “Christianity” named for her father, the self-proclaimed prophet. In this environment, women are treated as second-class citizens, never to use technology of any sort without the immediate supervision of their husband, father, or older brother (in that order). Her only access to the outside world is in the form of her employment at the sect’s farmstore, where she works as a cashier. Her world spins out of control when Julian Goetz, world-famous photographer, comes to her store, on assignment to document life in the sect. She hears – senses – a voice telling her to meet Julian out by a tree just a few days after they meet. She doesn’t know who (or what) it is, but she obeys. Funny thing is, Julian heard the same voice and met Ada at the tree. Neither knowing why, but both knowing that they must, they leave together and marry.

Katherine Walker is a woman in a bad marriage. She has two teenage boys, and they’re all that’s keeping her with her husband. But she’s not faithful to him. During a business trip, she learns that her flight home has been overbooked. She strikes up a conversation with a young man in the airport and learns that he’s trying desperately to get home to his wife for her birthday. He’s been bumped; she hasn’t. In order to gain an extra night with her lover, she offers the young man her seat. That man is Julian Goetz.

The plane crashes during that flight. Every passenger is killed.

How will Ada, who knows nothing about surviving on her own, continue without Julian? How will Katherine, knowing that she should have been on that flight, live with the guilt of having condemned Julian to die by trading tickets with him?

My Review

I’m not going to sugarcoat this at all. I hated this book for a long time. I didn’t like Ada because she was a disaster. She was so frail that I couldn’t relate to her at all. I didn’t like how Ms. Parrish skirted the issue of what kind of sect Ada came from. There was no way to understand her character because we aren’t given any background information on her.

And Katherine’s even worse! It risky to put an adulteress as one of the main characters in a Christian novel. Even though she was easier to understand, she was so bad that I still couldn’t like her.

But then we enter part two of the book, where we go back in time and see what Julian was like before he was  killed (the plane crash takes place in the opening scenes of the book). I liked Julian. I loved his faith and how he took that faith and made it a part of his very core – as our faith should be. I liked how he didn’t always know why God was telling him to do things (like marry Ada), but he always recognized God’s voice and obeyed. Here, in part two, is where I craved the book. I was screaming (in my head, of course) at him not to take Katherine’s offer of trading tickets when we get to the end of his part.

When we leave Julian, we meet Evan, Katherine’s younger son. He’s an alright character. I was pretty indifferent toward him. He had some good qualities and some bad. He was definitely better than his mother. Evan’s part is still closely intertwined with the story of Julian and Ada (more so than Katherine’s chapters during part one, which alternates between Katherine and Ada), so it kept me turning the (proverbial) pages.

The final part of the book brings all the moving parts together. Ada, working with some of Julian’s photographs and camera equipment, learns to find her own way in the world, with the help of Julian’s God. When she finds Evan and Katherine, the meeting is surprisingly underwhelming. (And cements Katherine’s place as the worst character in the book.) But the way Ada begins to move forward and heal makes it worth it in the end.

Final rating: 3.5 stars


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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book through Book Look Bloggers for the purposes of this review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

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