Shedding light on the human condition | VailDaily.com

Shedding light on the human condition

Cassie Pence

Special to the DailyMark Spragg first met Einar, one of the protagonists in his novel Unfinished Life, in a day dream, as if he was a ghost nagging to have his story told.

EDWARDS – Before “Unfinished Life” was even a scribble of ideas in author Mark Spragg’s notebook, one of the main characters Einar appeared to him like an apparition.”An elderly man kept appearing in my day dreams with a mob of cats around him, deeply bittered. I tried to ignore him, but then he started showing up in my night dreams,” Spragg said while in Utah at a literary festival.So Spragg and his wife began to indulge this character, and during long road trips, they would hypothesize and take notes about what had damaged Einar, why he was unable to forgive and how could he journey back to forgiveness. Spragg built his novel “Unfinished Life” around Einar and this idea that all people live unfinished lives.”We all have areas in our lives that we are unable to put to rest, certain situations and circumstances that we are unable to forgive and come to peace within ourselves,” said Spragg. “Every one of these characters lived unfinished lives. It’s part of the human condition.” Spragg will be at eat! drink! in Edwards Tuesday at 5 p.m. to talk about his book. His visit is part of the Bookworm of Edwards’ Meet the Author series.Einar is a resentful old man who can’t get over the death of his wife and son, Griffin. He struggles with the aches and pains of growing old, and daily routine is his only motivation to continue. Part of that routine is taking care of Mitch, his black war buddy who was mauled by a bear. Mitch seems to be the only speck of hope in Einar’s life – until Griff comes along.Griff is the most lovable character in “Unfinished Life.” Spragg said he intentionally wrote Griff at a pre-sexual age, before kids are blunted by their awareness of the attraction in the world. Ten years old, tough and precocious, Griff writes all the things she hates about her mother, Jean, in her diary. Griff thinks the only thing her mother is good at is finding the same type of man, no matter where they live.

Four men and four trailer homes in four years, Griff finally convinces her mother to leave the latest brute boyfriend Roy after he beats up on her mother. No money and no where to go, Jean packs up Griff and heads to her hometown of Ishawooa, Wyo., to stay with her father-in-law and Griff’s grandfather Einar, who Griff never new existed. Einar has never forgiven Jean for his son’s death and isn’t happy to see either of them on his doorstep. But Griff falls in love with Mitch, Einar and life on a ranch, and they fall in love with Griff. “Given her mother’s choices, Griff has had to become very brave and in many ways she’s had to adopt adult behavior,” Spragg said. “Yet at the age of 10, she has that other hopefulness of life, like everything is going to be all right.”The realness of Griff, Jean, Mitch and Einar drives Spragg’s tale of of love, loss and redemption. As the novel unfolds, these characters quickly become more than just protagonists, but people readers won’t soon forget. Spragg’s details of human life are so precise you can’t help but visualize every moment in the book.Spragg’s wife, Virginia, helped to develop Einar’s sincere character from the very beginning when Spragg told her about his day dreams. Einar became such a visual character that Virginia began writing a screenplay for “Unfinished Life” simultaneously with Spragg’s novel writing.”It became an innocent experiment,” Spragg said. “We’d never before moved a narrative forward in two different mediums.”They finished the screenplay together and it was bought and made into a feature film by Miramax. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom (“The Cider House Rules” “Chocolate”), the film stars Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez and Morgran Freeman. It premiered in New York Sept. 9. There are certain aspects of the novel, Spragg said, that didn’t lend themselves to film, but Spragg is completely happy with the screen version.”Working with Lasse is not like working with a Hollywood director,” Spragg said. “He wanted us on the set every day. We felt absolutely involved. It was a real partnership.”

For more information on Spragg’s visit to eat! drink!, contact the Bookworm of Edwards at 926-7323.Behind the wordsMeet author Mark Spragg5 p.m. Tuesdayeat! drink! in EdwardsTickets cost $20For more information, call 926-7323

“Every one of these characters lived unfinished lives. It’s part of thehuman condition.”Mark SpraggauthorArts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 618, or cpence@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado