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A Student of Living Things

3.2  ·  Rating details ·  177 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
The Frayn family of Washington, D.C., is coping pretty well with twenty-first century realities of life?snipers, bomb threats, natural disasters, etc. Then, in the moment it takes Claire Frayn to dig for her umbrella, her politically outspoken brother Steven is shot down right next to her on the library steps.
Steven's murder shatters the tightly knit Frayn family, and hi
ebook, 256 pages
Published July 1st 2007 by Plume Books (first published 2006)
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May 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pros: (3 1/2 stars) Great twists and turns regarding the plot. Liked the final ending, it could have gone in a lot of different directions. The characters were well developed, especially liked the mom, Julia. The nuances for family dynamics was also well done. Quite a few of family members living in one home, but realistic. Interesting back drop of quasi police state among the fact of everyday living as we know it carried on. Good intertwining of music, science and human connections. More of a p ...more
Noah W
Nov 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 21, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wishlist, xx, death
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Feb 10, 2011 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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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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...