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Book review: Whitney Award winner 'As Wide as the Sky' explores grieving, choices

AS WIDE AS THE SKY,” by Jessica Pack, Kensington Press, $15.95, 235 pages (f)

Amanda Mallorie has been fighting for her son, Robbie, for the four years he was on death row, trying to understand the events that landed him there. When “As Wide as the Sky” opens, it’s the day her son dies and she is packing up to move to another state to be closer to her married daughter and her family in hopes of rebuilding her life and relationships.

Josi S. Kilpack is the author of "As Wide as the Sky," under the pen name Jessica Pack.
Josi S. Kilpack is the author of "As Wide as the Sky," under the pen name Jessica Pack.
Erin Summerill

As she goes through the last of Robbie’s things, she finds a class ring she hasn’t seen before and couldn’t have been her son’s. Determined to find its owner, Amanda goes on a journey that helps her learn to slowly but surely step out of the protective shell she had created out of necessity and to not be afraid of strangers and their reactions.

While told primarily from Amanda’s point of view, author Josi Kilpack, whose pen name is Jessica Pack, includes the reactions and perspectives of others Amanda interacts with along her journey to discover the owner of the ring and why her son had it. Those perspectives link together in unexpected ways, showing how an event can impact many others.

It’s an emotional story with depth that shows grieving and the struggle to move on from past decisions — and to make better ones to have a better today and tomorrow.

While a departure from Kilpack’s previous culinary mysteries and romances, it does show her skill as a novelist. Just be sure to keep the tissues close by.

It does include some general descriptions of violence as Amanda recalls Robbie’s actions, and another character does swear once.

“As Wide as the Sky” won the 2018 Whitney Award for best novel of the year from the adult fiction categories and also for the general fiction category. The Whitney Awards recognize novels by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Kilpack the author of 25 books and has been part of several collaborations.