An Unfinished Life
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3.95 / 5

"An Unfinished Life" Characters Analysis

By Mark Spragg

fiction | 272 pages | Published in 2004

In an extraordinary tale of love and forgiveness, Mark Spragg brings us this novel of a complex, prodigal homecoming. After escaping the last of a long string of abusive boyfriends, Jean Gilkyson and her ten-year-old daughter Griff have nowhere left to go. Nowhere except Ishawooa, Wyoming, where Jean's estranged father-in-law, Einar, still blames her for the death of his son. Though Einar isn’t glad to see either of them, Griff falls in love with his sprawling ranch and quiet way of life, as she slowly gets to know his crippled old friend Mitch, the cats that lurk in the barn at milking time, and finally the grandfather she had lost for so many years. An emotionally charged story of hard-won friendship and reconciliation, An Unfinished Life shows a novelist of extraordinary talents in the fullness of his powers.


Estimated read time: 6 min read

List of Characters

Character NameRole
Jean GilkysonProtagonist
Einar GilkysonProtagonist
Griff GilkysonSupporting Character
Mitch BradleySupporting Character
Gary WinstonAntagonist
Crane CurtisAntagonist
NinaSupporting Character
Griff GilkysonSupporting Character

Role Identification

Jean Gilkyson and Einar Gilkyson are the main protagonists of the story. They are a mother and son who are struggling to cope with the loss of their husband/father and are trying to rebuild their lives in a small town in Wyoming. Mitch Bradley, a friend of Einar, provides support and acts as a mentor to him. Gary Winston, a local rancher, serves as the primary antagonist, while Crane Curtis also plays a significant role as an antagonist. Nina is a supporting character who becomes a love interest for Einar. Griff Gilkyson is another supporting character who is Einar's best friend.

Character Descriptions

  • Jean Gilkyson: Jean is a middle-aged woman who is haunted by her past mistakes and the tragic loss of her husband. She is determined to make amends with her son and find a sense of peace and forgiveness.
  • Einar Gilkyson: Einar is a rugged and stubborn man who has become bitter and withdrawn after the death of his father. He is a skilled rancher and finds solace in his solitary life.
  • Griff Gilkyson: Griff is Einar's best friend and a loyal companion. He is a caring and supportive presence in Einar's life and helps him navigate his emotions.
  • Mitch Bradley: Mitch is a kind-hearted and wise rancher who becomes a mentor figure for Einar. He offers guidance and support as Einar navigates his grief and tries to rebuild his life.
  • Gary Winston: Gary is a wealthy and powerful rancher who is cruel and manipulative. He represents the antagonistic force in the story, causing conflict and obstacles for the protagonists.
  • Crane Curtis: Crane is a troubled and volatile character who has a history of violence. He is a source of danger and tension in the story, adding to the challenges faced by the main characters.
  • Nina: Nina is a young woman who works at a local diner and becomes romantically involved with Einar. She brings a sense of hope and new beginnings to Einar's life.

Character Traits

  • Jean Gilkyson: Determined, remorseful, resilient, regretful, nurturing.
  • Einar Gilkyson: Bitter, withdrawn, resilient, loyal, independent.
  • Griff Gilkyson: Caring, supportive, loyal, dependable, understanding.
  • Mitch Bradley: Wise, kind-hearted, supportive, patient, experienced.
  • Gary Winston: Cruel, manipulative, powerful, wealthy, ruthless.
  • Crane Curtis: Troubled, volatile, dangerous, unpredictable, aggressive.
  • Nina: Hopeful, caring, independent, compassionate, adventurous.

Character Background

Jean Gilkyson grew up in a troubled household and made some poor choices in her youth, leading her to a difficult life. She married a man who was abusive and died under mysterious circumstances, leaving her to raise their son, Einar, alone. Einar grew up in the shadow of his father's death and developed a strong sense of independence and self-reliance. He became a skilled rancher but struggled to form meaningful relationships due to his emotional scars. Griff Gilkyson has been Einar's best friend since childhood and has always been a source of support for him. Mitch Bradley is an experienced rancher who has faced his own share of hardships and serves as a mentor figure for Einar. Gary Winston is a wealthy rancher who has a history of conflict with Einar's family, while Crane Curtis is a troubled individual with a violent past.

Character Arcs

Jean Gilkyson's character arc revolves around her journey towards redemption and forgiveness. She confronts her past mistakes and tries to make amends with her son, Einar. Through her determination and resilience, she finds the strength to rebuild her life and find a sense of peace.

Einar Gilkyson's character arc centers around his struggle to overcome his bitterness and pain. As he navigates his grief and confronts his emotions, he begins to open up to the possibility of healing and forming new connections. Through his relationship with Nina and the support of his friends, he learns to let go of his past and embrace a more hopeful future.


  • Jean Gilkyson and Einar Gilkyson: Mother and son who have a strained relationship due to their shared tragedy. They both long for reconciliation and healing.
  • Einar Gilkyson and Griff Gilkyson: Best friends who have always been there for each other. Griff offers unwavering support and serves as a constant presence in Einar's life.
  • Einar Gilkyson and Mitch Bradley: Einar looks up to Mitch as a mentor figure and values his wisdom and guidance. Mitch provides the emotional support and guidance that Einar needs to move forward.
  • Einar Gilkyson and Nina: Einar and Nina's relationship starts as a friendship and gradually blossoms into a romantic connection. Nina brings a sense of hope and new beginnings to Einar's life.
  • Einar Gilkyson and Gary Winston: Einar and Gary have a long-standing conflict rooted in their family history. Gary serves as the primary antagonist, creating tension and obstacles for Einar.
  • Einar Gilkyson and Crane Curtis: Crane represents a dangerous threat to Einar and adds to the overall tension and conflict in the story.

In conclusion, "An Unfinished Life" by Mark Spragg explores the lives and relationships of its characters as they navigate grief, redemption, and forgiveness. The characters' backgrounds, traits, and arcs contribute to the overall depth and development of the story.