An Unfinished Life
Goodreads ratings
3.95 / 5

"An Unfinished Life" Summary

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: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A grieving widow, her estranged father-in-law, and a troubled young girl find solace and redemption in an unexpected bond formed on a Wyoming ranch.


"An Unfinished Life" is a captivating novel written by Mark Spragg. Set in the rugged landscapes of Wyoming, this book explores the themes of redemption, forgiveness, and the power of second chances. Spragg's vivid descriptions and compelling storytelling make this a must-read for anyone who enjoys character-driven narratives and the beauty of the American West.

Brief Synopsis

The novel takes place in the fictional town of Ishawooa, Wyoming, where the characters are deeply intertwined with the land and its history. The story follows the lives of three main characters: Jean Gilkyson, her daughter, Griff, and Einar Gilkyson, Jean's father-in-law.

Jean, a strong-willed woman, escapes from an abusive relationship and returns to Ishawooa with her daughter in tow. Seeking refuge, they move in with Einar, a gruff and solitary rancher who still mourns the death of his son, Griffin. The scars of the past haunt each character, and their lives become entangled as they strive to find healing and redemption.

Main Characters

Jean GilkysonA resilient woman who escaped an abusive relationship and returns to her hometown in Wyoming with her daughter. She is determined to build a new life for herself and find healing from the past.
Griff GilkysonJean's daughter, who is a teenager struggling to come to terms with the trauma she experienced and find her place in the world. She forms a deep connection with her grandfather, Einar, and learns valuable life lessons from him.
Einar GilkysonAn aging rancher who is haunted by the death of his son, Griffin. Einar is a hardened man who has closed himself off emotionally. However, as he bonds with his granddaughter and supports Jean, he begins to confront his own demons and find a path to redemption.

Summary of Different Story Points

Chapter 1-5: Reuniting in Ishawooa

Jean and Griff arrive in Ishawooa and move in with Einar. Jean reconnects with old friends and tries to rebuild her life. Griff struggles with the trauma of the past but finds solace in the natural beauty of Wyoming.

Chapter 6-10: Healing and Second Chances

Einar gradually opens up to Jean and Griff, sharing stories of his past and the loss of his son. Jean starts working at a local diner and forms a bond with a man named Mitch. Einar's relationship with Jean and Griff brings him a sense of purpose and a chance at redemption.

Chapter 11-15: Confronting the Past

Jean's ex-boyfriend, Gary, discovers her whereabouts and threatens her. Einar, fueled by a desire to protect his family, confronts Gary and defends Jean and Griff. This act of bravery and confrontation forces Einar to confront his own demons and face the pain he has been avoiding.

Chapter 16-20: Forgiveness and Redemption

As Einar faces his past, Jean begins to forgive herself for the mistakes she made. Griff finds strength in her family and the love they share. Together, they learn that forgiveness and redemption are possible, even in the face of deep pain and loss.

Main Events

  1. Jean and Griff move in with Einar, seeking refuge and a fresh start.
  2. Einar slowly opens up to Jean and Griff, forming a bond with his granddaughter.
  3. Jean reconnects with old friends and starts working at a local diner.
  4. Einar confronts Jean's abusive ex-boyfriend, Gary, and defends his family.
  5. Jean, Griff, and Einar find healing, forgiveness, and redemption through their shared experiences.

Themes and Insights

Redemption and Second Chances

The novel explores the idea that it is never too late to seek redemption and find second chances in life. Each character in the story is given an opportunity to heal and grow, despite their painful pasts.

Forgiveness and Healing

Spragg delves into the transformative power of forgiveness and the healing that comes from letting go of past pain. Through their relationships and shared experiences, the characters learn to forgive themselves and others, paving the way for personal growth and healing.

The Connection to Nature

The novel highlights the profound connection between the characters and the natural world around them. The vast landscapes of Wyoming serve as a backdrop for the characters' emotional journeys, offering solace, reflection, and a sense of peace.

Reader's Takeaway

"An Unfinished Life" is a deeply moving and thought-provoking novel that explores themes of redemption, forgiveness, and the healing power of second chances. Spragg's beautifully descriptive writing transports readers to the rugged landscapes of Wyoming, where the characters' emotional journeys unfold. This book reminds us that it is never too late to find healing, forgiveness, and a renewed sense of purpose.


Mark Spragg's "An Unfinished Life" is a powerful and evocative novel that captures the beauty of the American West while delving into the complexities of human emotions. Through the compelling stories of Jean, Griff, and Einar, the novel explores themes of redemption, forgiveness, and the transformative power of second chances. Spragg's masterful storytelling and vivid descriptions make this book a captivating read for anyone who enjoys character-driven narratives and an exploration of the human spirit.

An Unfinished Life FAQ

  1. Who is the author of 'An Unfinished Life'?

    The author of 'An Unfinished Life' is Mark Spragg.

  2. What is the genre of 'An Unfinished Life'?

    'An Unfinished Life' is a contemporary fiction novel.

  3. What is the premise of 'An Unfinished Life'?

    'An Unfinished Life' tells the story of Jean Gilkyson, a woman who seeks refuge with her young daughter Griff in the Wyoming ranch of her estranged father-in-law, Einar. The novel explores themes of family, forgiveness, and healing.

  4. Is 'An Unfinished Life' based on a true story?

    No, 'An Unfinished Life' is a work of fiction and not based on a true story.

  5. When was 'An Unfinished Life' published?

    'An Unfinished Life' was first published in 2004.

  6. Has 'An Unfinished Life' been adapted into a movie?

    Yes, 'An Unfinished Life' was adapted into a film in 2005, directed by Lasse Hallström and starring Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez, and Morgan Freeman.

  7. What are some other notable works by Mark Spragg?

    Some other notable works by Mark Spragg include 'The Fruit of Stone' and 'Bone Fire'.

  8. Is 'An Unfinished Life' part of a series?

    No, 'An Unfinished Life' is a standalone novel and not part of a series.

  9. What is the target audience of 'An Unfinished Life'?

    'An Unfinished Life' is aimed at adult readers who enjoy character-driven contemporary fiction.

  10. Is 'An Unfinished Life' available in e-book format?

    Yes, 'An Unfinished Life' is available in e-book format for readers who prefer digital copies.