Monday, 26 June 2017

Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King

Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King
Published May 29, 2017 by Text Publishing
Rating: 5 stars

From the blurb: Sixteen-year-old Sarah can’t draw. This is a problem, because as long as she can remember, she has ‘done the art.’ She thinks she’s having an existential crisis. And she might be right; she does keep running into past and future versions of herself as she wanders the urban ruins of Philadelphia.
Or maybe she’s finally waking up to the tornado that is her family, the tornado that six years ago sent her once-beloved older brother flying across the country for a reason she can’t quite recall. After decades of staying together ‘for the kids’ and building a family on a foundation of lies and domestic violence, Sarah’s parents have reached the end. Now Sarah must come to grips with years spent sleepwalking in the ruins of their toxic marriage.
As Sarah herself often observes, nothing about her pain is remotely original—and yet it still hurts.Insightful, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful, this is a vivid portrait of abuse, survival, resurgence that will linger with readers long after the last page.
Sarah, age sixteen, is having an existensial crisis. It starts at school, in art class. She's always loved art but one day she realises she can no longer draw, not even a pear. She realises that nothing is original. She quits school. She begins to ride the buss each day and wander around Philadelphia instead. It's on these solo adventures she starts meeting versons of herself; there's ten-year-old Sarah, twenty-three-year-old Sarah, and also forty-year-old Sarah. Slowly Sarah's memories of a family trip start to resurface and she has to face the problems her parents have been trying to hide for years.

A new book by A.S.King is always something I look forward to. Her writing is captivating, her topics compelling, her characters real and easy to relate to. These qualities are all present in her latest novel, Still Life with Tornado.

I was immediately drawn in by Sarah's dry, matter-of-fact manner. Her new attitude towards life; that nothing is original, that nothing really matters, is something I'm sure a lot of us think on a daily basis (it's not just me, right?) It's also clear there is a lot more going on in Sarah's life - some of it she's willfully ignoring, some of it she's forgotten, and some of it has been kept from her. I felt intrigued but also sympathetic and protective of her.

Helen, Sarah's mum, is an ER nurse who works night shifts. She's clever, sharp, and no-nonsense. The inclusion of Helen's perspective added a lot to the story, including an understanding of what had been hidden from Sarah. Her point of view balanced out Sarah's well, providing insight into their family history.

This is a book about a girl in crisis and a family living with domestic violence, but the violence itself is never the main focus of the story. It's a sensitive subject but I didn't feel as sickened or disturbed as I have done while reading books that includes graphic descriptions of violence. Sometimes that needs to be shown in detail, but this story managed to make the aftermath feel just as tense. The atmosphere of Sarah's home was palpable, and the volatility increased as the story went on.

Ableist language: crazy, insane, schizo, psycho, dumb.

Still Life with Tornado is the perfect blend of magic, mystery, and real life. It's clever, heartbreaking, and hopeful. And, despite what Sarah might think, it's most definitely original.

Thank you to Text Publishing for my copy.

Cover design: Samira Iravani

This is an eye-catching and memorable cover, and I love that the design carried through into the pages of the book.

I videoed a tutorial of me painting this manicure, you can watch it below or on my YouTube channel.


  1. Awesome review! :D I can't wait to read this book, my beautiful hardcover just arrived in the mail last week. Did you meet A.S. King the other day too? She's just great, like yeah, she's definitely one of my all-time favourite authors. <3 I read her books in order though, so I have to read Glory O'Brien, then I Crawl Through It, then this one. Ugh! I just want to read this one now! >_<

    Cass @ Words on Paper


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