What Luck, This Life

What Luck, This Life by [Schwille, Kathryn]This week’s other featured books, “Reading T.S. Eliot to a Bird,” by David Chorlton, “Why We Make Gardens,” by Jeanne Larsen and “Retrograde,” by Kat Hausler, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our authors page.

THE BOOK: What Luck, This Life

PUBLISHED IN: September 2018.

THE AUTHOR: Kathryn Schwille.

THE EDITOR: Betsy Teter.

THE PUBLISHER: Hub City Press.

SUMMARY:  What Luck, This Life begins in the aftermath of the 2003 Columbia Space Shuttle disaster, as the people of fictional Kiser, Texas watch their pastures swarm with searchers, and reporters bluster at their doors. A shop owner defends herself against a sexual predator who is pushed to new boldness after he is disinvited to his family reunion. SchwilleSized crop.jpgA closeted father facing a divorce that will leave his gifted boy adrift retrieves an astronaut’s remains. An engineer who dreams of orbiting earth joins a search for debris and instead uncovers an old neighbor’s buried longing. In a chorus of voices spanning places and years, What Luck, This Life explores the Columbia disaster’s surprising fallout for a town beset by the tensions of class, race, and missed opportunity.

THE BACK STORY: In February of 2005, two years after the Columbia shuttle disaster, I saw an Associated Press story in my local newspaper filed from a New Orleans conference of forensic scientists. Sharon Brown, a police document examiner from Israel, had delivered a talk about the unique assignment she’d undertaken. Eighteen pages from the diary of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon had been found on a forest floor in East Texas. The pieces of metal-bound notebook, which had survived two months in the elements, were battered and stuck together, some even wadded. Sharon Brown’s job was to separate the pages and see if there was anything for his widow to read. I was intrigued. Why hadn’t I heard about the discovery of this diary? What else was recovered that most of us hadn’t heard about? I was in the middle of another project, but this one started taking over. I couldn’t get it out of my head. A year later, I was on a plane to East Texas. I thought it would be a rich backdrop for fiction, and it was.

WHY THIS TITLE: It’s from the last chapter of the book and, like the book, evokes both trouble and joy.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: The Columbia shuttle fell about six weeks before the U.S. went to war with Iraq; the story of the heroic search that returned 84,000 pieces of the spacecraft to NASA has been largely overlooked.


“Schwille’s prose is vibrant. Among the wreckage, she paints an exuberant natural landscape. Each word of this slim novel is impactful. Despite the characters’ grim undertaking, the world Schwille envisions is one no reader will ever want to leave. In the end, when the sky falls over Kiser, it reminds its inhabitants about their own mortality, that death is one of life’s greatest mysteries and that it can be as fickle and unpredictable as a mechanical malfunction.” – Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Fans of Thomas Pierce and Amy Hill Hearth will appreciate Schwille’s spare, poetic prose and her willingness to examine both the picturesque and the unsavory sides of small-town life. A deeply thought-provoking novel.” – Booklist

AUTHOR PROFILE: My short fiction has appeared in New Letters, Memorious, Crazyhorse, West Branch, Sycamore Review and other literary journals. My stories have twice received Special Mention in the Pushcart Prize anthology and I’ve had the good fortune to receive an Individual Artist Fellowship from the North Carolina Arts Council and fellowships from the Virginia Center for Creative Arts and Hambidge Center for Arts and Sciences. I live in Charlotte, NC, where I’m on the regular faculty at the Charlotte Center for Literary Arts.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: For an excerpt, click on the Reading Group Guide on my website: kathrynschwille.com

LOCAL OUTLETS: https://apc01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fhubcity.org%2Fpress%2Fcatalog%2Ffiction%2Fwhat-luck-this-life%2F&data=02%7C01%7C%7Cce401070bede4c220e3e08d65ad151a0%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636796252396583473&sdata=PphixWHERXonWw8Mt7FPzPpDL33YAbVzcjoCVgUxXgU%3D&reserved=0

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Park Road Books in Charlotte (parkroadbooks.com), or order it anywhere books are sold.

PRICE: $24.95.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Through the contact page at kathrynschwille.com

Published by


Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s