In real life truth is often stranger than fiction, and so it is in the case where Skyla Medley first meets Thomas Plinka in Karen McQuestion's novel A Scattered Life. Two different people and opposing personalities brought together by fate, Thomas was raised in a close-knit family with an interfering Mom, and Skyla was basically an orphan as well as a rolling stone who was constantly on the move.
Skyla settles into life with Thomas. He has the stability she has always dreamed of, but along with that comes a very intrusive mother-in-law. Both Thomas and Skyla feel they can work at keeping the interference at a low level through their interactions, and Nora, their beautiful and precocious daughter, is the glue that binds as well as the light of their lives. Skyla has settled into this life with ease; Thomas is very controlled, thinking before he speaks, and while he is very predictable Skyla has a life she has only dreamed of. So why does it feel like something is missing?
After church one day Skyla decides she wants to walk by the the house down the street. Their old neighbors have just moved away, and she is curious to meet the new people moving in. Thomas isn't interested but Skyla is hoping the new neighbors will have a little girl, someone that could be a friend for Nora. Skyla missed having friends and as she grew up had at least one in every town she moved to. She cried everytime they left because she would miss them. She did not have any friends in her new home as the women in her neighborhood were busy with careers or just more sophisticated. This made her very uncomfortable to be around them. She wants more for Nora and just knows that if the neighbors have a little girl they will be the best of friends.
As they approach the driveway amidst the mess of moving, in Thomas's view more than the normal disaray, Nora spots a very young boy in some blankets sucking his thumb. No one is around and he is on his own. He looks to be two or three, and Thomas is very bothered that no one seems to know he is missing. As meeting the new neighbors goes, once Skyla alerts them to finding their absent son, which they had not noticed missing, this is not a great beginning as Thomas has already formed his opinion. Skyla, however, is fascinated and likes the hustle and the earthiness of her new neighbors. Without even knowing it, Roxanne Bear is just the friend she herself was looking for.
Skyla finds too much time on her hands when school starts, and Nora is no longer at home all day so she takes to walking through town. At the end of her walk each day is a dilapidated book store, Mystic Books. While she has never been inside, she has been curious about it, so she decides to step in and check it out. The tiny elderly woman inside appears to be expecting her. She lets Skyla know that Madame, the woman that did the "readings" in the back of the book store, informed her that Skyla would be coming and would be working at the store. Skyla loves the book store and feels she can help to bring it back to its former glory as she agrees to start working there. As Skyla leaves the book store, she reflects on how she would let Thomas know about her new job, knowing he would not approve.
As Skyla's life changes and brightens even further, we move into a story of love, anger, tragedy, loss, heartache, and death. And, as happens in true life, this book also brings a feeling of renewal and laughter.
This is a wonderful book and hard to put down. Be prepared and bring the tissue. Karen McQuestion has written a profound and engaging book on issues that we all face in our lives, and she has found a way to bring this full circle and to add closure where it is due.