cover image A Quiet Life

A Quiet Life

Ethan Joella. Scribner, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-1-982190-97-2

Three people navigate different kinds of grief in the sentimental latest from Joella (A Little Hope). Chuck Ayers, a Vietnam veteran and recent widower, dithers over whether to go alone on the annual trip he took with his wife, Cat, from Pennsylvania to Hilton Head, S.C., and replays in his mind a fight he’d had years ago with Cat involving his disapproval of her support for a young aspiring artist. Kirsten Bonato, whose father was murdered as a bystander during an armed robbery, works at an animal rescue and tries to sort out her crush on her boss, who’s going through an acrimonious divorce, and her pleasant, casual dating of a hunky coworker. Ella Burke delivers papers and works tedious shifts at a bridal store, trying to stay busy in hopes she’s ready if her eight-year-old daughter, Riley, who was kidnapped three months earlier by her ex-husband, is ever found. Turns out Kristen is a former student of Cat’s, and Chuck bumps into her while visiting the animal rescue where Kristen works. Later, Chuck impulsively gives Ella his second car after seeing her fall while she delivers his paper. The interconnections feel manufactured, though as the characters make small progress in their efforts to move on from their pain and dilemmas, Joella builds toward a convincing set of resolutions. Readers might feel like they’ve been here before, but it’s comforting nonetheless. Agent: Madeleine Milburn, Madeleine Milburn Literary. (Nov.)