Book review – A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler


A Whole Life is a quiet story of a man’s life, from his early childhood to his last days. He, Egger, is one of those people whose life looks unremarkable, but feels extraordinary. Egger’s life is never easy and he recognizes that he isn’t special. Instead of striving to keep up with the Jones’ or bemoaning his misfortunes, he accepts what he is given and he contents himself in doing what he needs to survive while enjoying his life in the mountains. In other words, he chooses to just live.

There are times when the book is a bit melancholic and even tragic, but the tone of the writing is persistently peaceful and simple, matching Egger’s quiet personality and sombre life. And, yet, the author is still able convey the crispness of the mountain life, the lushness of fluffy snow, and the heartache of losing a loved one.

The author conveys so much in so few words. It’s short and simple, but atmospheric. The book was clearly written (and translated) with a great deal of careful consideration for each word and each sentence, because there’s nothing extraneous: not a single word or a single thought seems out of place or extravagant.

I was really touched by this book and I think that it’s a story that will stick with me for a long time. In that regard, it reminds me of And the Birds Rained Down, which always seems to be lingering in the back of my mind. And, in fact, both focus on a character (or more) that is somewhat withdrawn from the rest of society and both are beautiful explorations of people living in the fringes of society.

If you’re looking for a quiet (and relatively quick) read, A Whole Life is an excellent book.

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