A Scattered Life

( 10 )


Free spirit Skyla Plinka has found the love and stability she always wanted in her reliable husband, Thomas. Settling into her new family and roles as wife and mother, Skyla finds life in rural Wisconsin satisfying, but she can’t seem to quell her growing sense of restlessness. Skyla’s only reprieve is her new friendship with neighbor Roxanne, who has five kids (and counting) and a life in constant disarray — but also a life filled with laughter and love.

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Free spirit Skyla Plinka has found the love and stability she always wanted in her reliable husband, Thomas. Settling into her new family and roles as wife and mother, Skyla finds life in rural Wisconsin satisfying, but she can’t seem to quell her growing sense of restlessness. Skyla’s only reprieve is her new friendship with neighbor Roxanne, who has five kids (and counting) and a life in constant disarray — but also a life filled with laughter and love.

Much to the dismay of her intrusive mother-in-law, Audrey, Skyla takes a part-time job at the local bookstore and slowly begins to rediscover her voice, independence, and confidence. Throughout one pivotal year in the lives of Skyla, Audrey, and Roxanne, three very different women will learn what it means to love unconditionally.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547745008
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 8/23/2011
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 693,329
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Karen McQuestion’s essays have appeared in Newsweek, Chicago Tribune, Denver Post, Christian Science Monitor and several anthologies. Originally self-published as a Kindle e-book, A Scattered Life became the first self-published Kindle book to ever be optioned for film. McQuestion lives with her family in Hartland, Wisconsin.

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Read an Excerpt

Skyla’s earliest memory of Thomas was linked with the smell of
beer and the taste of blood. She was waitressing at a Mexican restaurant
that semester, the one over on Brewer Street with the red
tiled roof and the neon sombrero in the window. Enchiladas and
fajitas were a novelty in small-town Wisconsin, where the traditional
cuisine leaned toward grilled bratwurst, Friday fish fries,
and coleslaw. The restaurant did a brisk trade, even if some of the
locals did pronounce the J in fajita and said pollo as if it were a
NASA mission. Skyla worked five shift s a week, five more than
she wanted to.
 Every day she intended to quit, but by closing time she’d
change her mind. For weeks she carried a handwritten note in the
pocket of her rust-colored, flouncy skirt. It said, “I, Skyla Medley,
give Las Tejas restaurant two weeks’ notice of my termination of
employment.” The note stayed the same except for the date, which
she crossed off and changed from time to time.
 It was the latest in a long series of jobs. Actually, a long series
of everything—new schools, new jobs, new places to live. She was
only twenty, but she’d always been on the move. Staying in one
spot didn’t have many advantages as far as she could tell, but the
constant motion was wearing.
 Getting a new job was never a problem. Neither was giving
notice. Skyla wasn’t quite sure what held her back this time.
Somehow she’d misplaced her momentum. For the first time she
wondered what it would be like to build a history in one place.
 Still, the thought of quitting Las Tejas never left her mind.
The boss, big Bruno, who wasn’t even Mexican, barked orders
constantly. She hated the yelling almost as much as she hated the
hot plates and the sticky margarita glasses, which were top-heavy.
She found it difficult to hoist the food trays very high and wound
up resting them on her shoulders. The fajita meat was served on
hot skillets that sizzled and spit next to her ear.
 The wait staff sat at the tiled tables after hours, drinking sodas
secretly spiked with rum and swapping stories of rude customers
and messy children. They were mostly college students, half of
them young men. The only thing that kept them coming back night
after night was the tips—big wads of bills and handfuls of change.
 Skyla was one of the younger ones, and she was so petite that
most of her coworkers initially guessed she was in high school.
And because she was quiet, they assumed she was shy. But neither
was true. She was an observer of life and a college student majoring
in art. The cooks and busboys joked with her, commenting
on her reddish hair and pale skin (“Seen the sun lately, Skyla?”)
but couldn’t get more than a smile out of her. She went about her
business, clearing dishes and warning people about hot plates,
and before long she figured out who was sleeping with whom and
which bartenders were helping themselves to money in the till.
People were pretty easy to get a handle on if you took the time to
watch and listen.
 The night Skyla met Thomas, she had just finished her shift .
Business was slow that evening because the Green Bay Packers
were playing on Monday Night Football. She’d lived in Wisconsin
for almost a year and still didn’t understand the natives’ reverence
for the Packers. Time card in hand, she headed toward the back
room, but before she could punch out, big Bruno recruited her
to wash glasses behind the bar. She didn’t mind the washing too
much, but the spongy floor mats were sticky and the air was thick
with cigarette smoke.
 She lowered each glass onto a sudsy revolving brush and
dipped them into the rinsing sink before placing them to the side
to dry. The process was so superficial it left her wondering if the
glasses were really clean.
 Because her back was to the rest of the bar, Skyla wasn’t fully
aware of what happened next. The sound of the football game muffled
the noise of the commotion behind her. She remembered hearing
a shout and turning to look. A flash of green flannel pushed
against her with the force of a linebacker and threw her several feet.
The back of her head hitting the edge of the bar broke her fall.
 It was the talk of Las Tejas for weeks to come. The busboy
with the bad skin liked to tell his version of the story. “I saw the
whole thing,” he said. “That guy in the plaid shirt was huge—had
to be three hundred pounds and six foot five at least. He got mad
when Bruno wouldn’t give him another shot of tequila.”
 The busboy paused for dramatic effect. “That little Skyla was
just minding her own business, just washing glasses, didn’t have
nothin’ to do with it at all. Then that guy barged back behind the
bar and crashed right into her.” He slapped his fist into his palm.
“Bam! Knocked her against the bar, and she hit the floor cold. One
of her shoes even went flying. Blood everywhere. It took Bruno
and two other guys to drag that drunk out of there. Then some
guy sitting at the bar jumped over it like a damn pole-vaulter and
went back by Skyla. I think he was a doctor or something.”
 Skyla remembered lying on the floor behind the bar and looking
up at Thomas’s concerned face. He appeared as if in a dream,
kneeling above her saying, “Don’t you worry about a thing; you’re
going to be fine.” It was all so hazy and surreal she wondered if he
were an angel, although she’d never heard of one with wire-rim
glasses before.
 She was vaguely aware of more yelling and the taste and feel
of blood in her mouth, but it was background noise compared
to Thomas’s reassurances. “Who are you?” she tried to ask right
before she lost consciousness, but her tongue was swollen where
she’d bit it and the words didn’t come out right.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 29, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A wonderful read for laughing and crying

    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.
    Break open a box of tissue, you may ne

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 4, 2010

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    Skyla is a nomad who meets Thomas at a Wisconsin Mexican restaurant where she is a waitress when she was hurt in a violent incident. He begins dating her, buys a home for them, and marries her although her mother-in-law Audrey disapproves of her. They have a little girl Nora.

    Skyla loves having a home and a family, something she never had growing up. However, as Nora turns four, she feels stifled. When she meets her scatter brained new neighbor Roxanne, mother of five kids and a big mastiff, she makes her first friend outside of Thomas' family. Skyla soon obtains a job at Mystic Books after meeting psychic Madame Picard. As her life blossoms with new friends, Audrey disapproves as does Thomas. However, Sklya refuses to give up either of her new buddies though life will soon hit home with what is friendship and love.

    A Scattered Life is an unhurried developed story line that allows readers an extremely deep look inside the soul of key players especially the heroine. In spite of the relatively unrushed pace, the plot grips the audience from the moment the rambunctious new neighbors settle in and never slows down. The story line centers on the friendship between the new BFFs and other loving relationships notably a mother and her children, and spouses. Well written, readers will enjoy this profound melodrama as Skyla learns what matters in life from Roxanne who lives life to the fullest with plenty of zest as she insists You Can't Take It With You (Moss and Hart) the love you receive from and give to others as everyone needs to feel cherished now.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 3, 2014

    I picked this book up while wandering around Barnes and Noble -

    I picked this book up while wandering around Barnes and Noble - didn't really expect a lot but thought the summary on the back sounded interesting. As it turned out I had found a gem of a book. McQuestion creates characters so beautifully I began to feel like I knew each of them personally. The story reveals how interesting and different each of our lives can be. I thoroughly enjoyed the book.

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  • Posted June 23, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Hits close to home, must read

    Skyla Plinka has spent her whole life scattered around the country until she falls for steady and reliable Thomas, in rural Wisconsin. Together they build the life she dreamed about, but as her daughter begins school Skyla becomes restless and wanting more. She ends up finding a part-time job at a local New Age bookstore and making a new friend with her neighbor, Roxanne Bear.
    Audrey Plinka is Thomas' mother who never really warmed up to Skyla as her daughter-in-law. Skyla does not fit the picture of the wife she had expected Thomas would choose. With her own children grown she now fills her time sneaking-I mean watching over her family and she is not happy about Skyla's new friend.
    Roxanne Bear is the fun loving new neighbor with 5 boys (and counting). Her beautiful home is disheveled and her kids are wild, but Roxy couldn't be prouder or happier with her life well maybe with a few more kids (and a daughter would be perfect).
    Over the next year these three women learn what it means to love unconditionally.
    A Scattered Life is a glimpse into the lives of three everyday women in Pellswick, WI. As I was reading this novel, it reminded me how most extraordinary stories are those based in reality. These three women could be anyone. I personally related to all of them on some level. I really enjoyed getting to know each of the women's stories and motivations. As the story progresses friendships are built, jealous grows, heartbreaking tragedy occurs and they learn how deal with life changing events.finding the best in themselves and those around them.
    I really liked the novel. I did notice some areas where I thought there was going to be some story development, but I don't feel it took anything away by not developing them. The story flowed a little awkward at first having Skyla moving forward and the first Chapter where we get to know Audrey goes backwards to where Skyla starts. With that said, this is a book worth reading. For most of the book I enjoyed it, but wasn't really sure where it was headed (and I was ok with it). I'll tell you though when tragedy occurs in the book, McQuestion's writing stood out as real--raw. I felt I was right there in the room, right there in those moments with them. I have personally delt with a very similar situation with someone I loved and it took me right back to those moments. I was sobbing while reading this book. This is an author you should be reading!

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  • Posted June 7, 2011

    A Scattered Life

    Friends loving each other unconditionally is the theme of Karen McQuestion's novel "A Scattered Life". We are so different as mothers, grandmothers, friends; how we show our love, how we are organized or not, how we raise our children and how we keep our homes. This is a sweet story of three women and how there friendship carries them through life despite their differences. A good story, slow sometimes but a good read.

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  • Posted August 13, 2010



    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted August 17, 2010

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    Posted January 5, 2011

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    Posted May 9, 2011

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    Posted January 11, 2011

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