Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Student of Living Things” as Want to Read:
A Student of Living Things
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Student of Living Things

3.22  ·  Rating Details ·  172 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
Even in the confusion and dread of the post-9/11 world, the tightly knit Frayn family is fairly well insulated from the snipers, bomb threats, and natural disasters that plague Washington, D.C., a few years into the future.

Then, in the moment it takes Claire Frayn to dig for her umbrella while her brother Steven waits next to her on the library steps of their university, h
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published May 4th 2006 by Viking Adult (first published 2006)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Student of Living Things, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about A Student of Living Things

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Dec 29, 2016 Jessohhhh rated it really liked it
Enjoyed this book. Powerful ending.
Noah W
Nov 26, 2013 Noah W rated it really liked it
It’s so rare to find a mystery or thriller that has real flesh-and-blood characters and intense emotional and psychological sensitivity, but that somehow maintains a fast-paced, stream-lined plot that is almost nail-bitingly suspenseful. This book is exactly that, and I loved it.

I have to start by saying this is one of the most tense and authentically suspenseful books I’ve read in a long time. The book starts off intriguing, stutters a bit, but then just keeps getting better and better. When 2
Sep 09, 2016 Meghan rated it liked it
Shelves: wishlist, xx, death
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 06, 2010 Stacy rated it it was amazing
Another book that I heard on NPR 90.9fm Philadelphia (, summer reading 2006).
Intrigued by the story line about Claire, a student of biology at George Washington Univ in Washington, DC, and her brother, Steven.

The setting is post 9-11 and the current state of Washington, DC is 'high alert', because of the assination of law student and op-ed writer, Steven Frayn, on the steps of GWU with his sister just steps away. The death is a shock to the family. The family struggles to stay together,
Maureen Neville
Feb 02, 2014 Maureen Neville rated it liked it
I liked the story (plot), however it is told backwards in time and by the end I'd actually forgotten some of what was written in the beginning of the story. The shift in time doesn't detract from the story and my faulty memory didn't cause too much of a problem in terms of comprehending what was going on.

The setting of the story is Washington, DC and a woman graduate student sees her brother killed right in front of her on the steps of a university library in this city. Along with this central
Mar 01, 2011 Sarah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sarah by: NPR book review
Interesting characters and some unusual plot twists. It's a mix of murder mystery, love story, and family drama. Fairly quick to read, with a bit of suspense and intrigue. The ending was believable, although a little too perfectly tied-up, which is rare in real-life.
Claire, the protagonist, was sweet and determined, but a bit naive and girlish for her age and education level, which made it hard for me to identify with her.
And the setting, post- 9/11 Washington D.C., with terrorist attacks occu
Jul 14, 2014 Melissa rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
This is the second book I read by Susan Shreve and I really, really liked it. The setting is post 9/11 civil war Washington D.C., which is like an alternate universe that could have happened. But the setting, while important, is not the emphasis of this book.

The best things about this book were:
- character development, interesting characters
- the little observations that Shreve tosses in at regular intervals
- the main character who is quirky but still real
- love letters written in music

Fun to
Jan 25, 2009 Natalie rated it liked it
I did not really get into this book till the end. I was expecting something much more cynical, not hoping, just expecting. I was surprised by the conclusion. There is a nice tie in with 911, guilt, and forgiveness, which drags you through humanities ability to cope with tragedy. As a whole, I thought it all wrapped up just a little “too” perfect and with its many references to 911 its idealist tone felt too Pollyanna.
Jul 22, 2011 Heather rated it liked it
Short, suspenseful, and full of references to familiar D.C.-area landmarks, this story takes place in the aftermath of the murder of a politically-outspoken law student as his grief-stricken and rather naive sister is drawn into a strange revenge scheme. The story was hampered, though, by a constant sense that something is a little bit off about the characters and scenarios --- not quite true-to-life enough to really draw you in.
Aug 18, 2008 Lori rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE!
This book was SO RAD and I couldn't put it down. What a suspenseful mystery. I didn't read the summary very well when I checked it out and didn't realize it was a mystery. This is a story about a family in MD that has a son that was murdered/assassinated/accidentally shot and his sister's quest to figure it out. I couldn't believe the ending. You'll have to read it to find out what happens. I did love the love story attached along with it. You never know who to trust.
Michelle Tackabery
Feb 27, 2008 Michelle Tackabery rated it liked it
I finished this book on 2/25. It is a short but engaging read which sweeps you in. The protagonist attempts to distance herself from her life, but her actions have devastating consequences, and by the last three chapters I found myself completely unable to put the book down.

I have an extra copy ordered by mistake I'd be willing to swap with someone.
it took a month to read first 120 pages, always having the feeling its time to drop the book and forget about it but there was still smth about it not allowing to drop. Having read it this morning, am not regretting. a good read in the end..and am now looking for someone who plays piano, to play the parts from the benj/claire-uncle letters to get the fuller sound of the story.
Nov 26, 2008 Dana rated it really liked it
I got this book at a library book sale because I really enjoyed the cover. This is the first book I've read by Shreve, but not her first -- I'm surprised I haven't heard of her sooner, but I plan on reading more of her books.
Dec 20, 2012 Carolyn rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Grief. Bewilderment. Bad decisions. Family ties. (Good. At one point, got worried, "I am NOT going to like where this is going." But the next chapter took a turn...for the BETTER, and I loved how it ended.)
Meg - A Bookish Affair
Jan 28, 2009 Meg - A Bookish Affair rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2009
The book follows the story of a family after their son is murdered on the steps of his university library. It takes place in the DC metro area and I enjoyed reading about places that I'm familiar with. The book drags in some places but the end is very good and puts everything together.
Jan 17, 2008 Dre rated it liked it
This was a quick story for me with a somewhat predictable ending but it still kept my interest nonetheless. Not exactly an upbeat book. It was a reminder of the fact that even when you think you know someone, you really don't.
Sep 15, 2008 Lindsey rated it liked it
I really enjoyed the twist when the mystery was resolved, but I had a hard time getting into the characters or story line of the novel. It was nice to read an adult novel for a change; it's been a while.
Apr 24, 2014 Kris rated it liked it
A perfect book for a long plane ride. But I never really connected to the main character, and intuited the perpetrator after the first mention.
Aug 17, 2014 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
It's a quick read and slightly depressing, about the murder of a brother and son, but the ending is good.
Mar 11, 2009 Mel rated it it was amazing
A Student of Living things was nothing like I thought it would be. But it was lovely. Short, suspenseful, and ultimately heartbreaking in the most wonderful way, I loved it.
Oct 20, 2008 Marsha added it
Took me weeks to get through this, not sure why. I couldn't just give up on it, not sure of why not.
Took me a long time to get through this b/c I don't usually read mystery-type books. But it was interesting.
Sep 09, 2011 Tori rated it really liked it
The middle third of this book was really slow, but otherwise I liked it. The dad building a full size airplane hanger behind their normal suburban house really cracked me up.
Jul 03, 2008 Susan rated it really liked it
While not a book about 9/11, this story of a fascinating family could only happen post 9/11. Loved the quirky characters and how they each work their way through tragedy.
Mar 30, 2008 Mary rated it liked it
A story of a murder and it's aftermath. I was entertained reading it, but I wouldn't read it again.
Dori Gray
Dori Gray rated it liked it
Jul 14, 2010
Terry rated it liked it
Dec 21, 2012
Nancy rated it liked it
May 29, 2010
Michelle rated it really liked it
Jul 20, 2010
Debra rated it liked it
Sep 09, 2007
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Sacred Cows Make the Best Burgers: Developing Change-Driving People and Organizations
  • The Debba
  • The Lost Chalice: The Epic Hunt for a Priceless Masterpiece
  • Charmed
  • The Poker Bride: The First Chinese in the Wild West
  • Everything Beautiful in the World
  • The Rules of Wolfe
  • A Blessing on the Moon
  • Here They Come
  • Deadly Slipper
  • The Good Rat
  • The Devious Book for Cats: A Parody
  • The Secret of Laurel Oaks
  • This Full House (Make Lemonade, #3)
  • An Unfinished Season
  • The Giant, O'Brien
  • I Never Knew That About New York
  • Later, at the Bar
Also know as Susan Shreve. Received the following awards: Jenny Moore Award, George Washington University, 1978; Notable Book citation, American Library Association (ALA), 1979, for Family Secrets: Five Very Important Stories; Best Book for Young Adults citation, ALA, 1980, for The Masquerade; Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, National Council for Social Studies and the ...more
More about Susan Richards Shreve...

Share This Book