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A Storied Life

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“Live your own story. Make every moment count.”

Olivia Frasier grew up under the guidance of her grandmother's mantra: “Live a storied life.” The oft-repeated words gave her the courage to pursue art instead of working at the family bank until a mistake made in college altered the course of her life. Now, no one knows Olivia still paints. Not her friends. Not her staff at the art gallery. Certainly not her family.

She can ignore the twinge of unease, the regret that surfaces when Gram's mantra comes to mind, the question of whether this is all life has to offer.

When Gram announces she has terminal cancer—and names Olivia as her Power of Attorney for Healthcare—Olivia is thrust in to the world of hospice and dying wishes. Olivia may be the family’s black sheep but she is determined to see Gram through this, no matter the cost.

Faced with losing the one person on her side, Olivia clings to the knowledge that Gram's death will finally allow her to walk away from the family. And yet Gram is determined to impart one last lesson: let go of the past so she can live the life she’s meant to lead.

When Reagan walks into her art gallery, the timing couldn’t be worse. He’s everything Olivia ever dreamed of wanting but she has learned to settle for less when it comes to her relationships and career. At what point does owning your story outweigh the potential hurt?

Weaving together grief and beauty, humor and romance, A Storied Life will make you rethink life, love, and loss.

Please note: this book explores the death of a loved one by cancer and contains mentions of past sexual harassment and suicidal ideation that could potentially trigger certain audiences.

334 pages, Kindle Edition

First published May 4, 2018

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About the author

Leigh Kramer

1 book1,173 followers
Leigh Kramer worked as a medical social worker, including hospice and pediatric hematology/oncology, for several years before trading her social work career for the love of spreadsheets and organization. She is a voracious reader (truly), Irish Breakfast tea devotee, and loyal White Sox fan. A Storied Life is her first novel. Follow along at LeighKramer.com, Instagram, and on Twitter.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 30 reviews
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,438 reviews78k followers
June 17, 2018
What a gem of a novel! If you, like me, enjoy finding those "diamond in the rough" debut authors, place Leigh Kramer on your radar. But Chelsea, I don't really care for love stories and romance novels. Well, lucky for you, A Storied Life is SO much more than just a romance novel. This book deals with some heavy subjects and thematic elements, some of which may be too much for sensitive readers (trigger warnings are thoughtfully added by the author at the end of the book synopsis here on Goodreads), but it is all done with such respect and careful thought that I feel it will speak to many readers walking through the loss of a loved one.

"I stare at the coffin before me as I'm transported to another ordinary day. I search and second-guess myself... I'm helpless and flailing. What comes next?... Maybe this time I will understand the difference between before and after. Maybe this time I will know what I could have done, what we all could have done differently."

Initially, the reason I wanted to pick this book up was based on some of the conversations I had previously with the author surrounding palliative care and the journey during the hospice care of a loved one. We were buddy reading a novel that featured a character in palliative care that wasn't portrayed authentically or sensitively. While neither one of us ended up enjoying that novel, it sparked an important connection and my ability to confide in someone while I was struggling post the recent experience of my grandmother's own hospice care before she passed away. I say all of this to let you know, reader, that Leigh Kramer is the real deal. Not only does she have ample professional experience in this field of social work, but she has the empathetic heart to take what could be a good story and turn it into a great one.

I don't want to reveal too much of the plot, but I will say that it felt so genuine and so realistic that I was able to fully get lost in the story. There is a time and a place for escapism fiction and romance novels that are fun and imaginative, but this was a different kind of love story, one full of substance and thought provoking character interactions that will appeal to general fiction readers as well as romance/women's fiction consumers. It's evident that whatever subject matter the author was not knowledgable in that she exhausted every resource available to give this novel the most credible, relatable, and authentic message possible. If you enjoy stories that are intelligent, moving, and hopeful, please do yourself the favor of picking up A Storied Life. Highly recommended to anyone who has lost a loved one and hoping to find themselves again throughout the grieving process.

* I received a copy of this book for review purposes via the author.
Profile Image for Anne Bogel.
Author 7 books54.6k followers
June 12, 2018
Fun, realistic women's fiction from my friend Leigh Kramer (who sent me a free advance reader copy), who writes engagingly about life, love, and loss. She brings together family ties, the world of art, budding romance, the Chicago White Sox, and terminal cancer to create a story I polished off in two days.
Profile Image for Kate Olson.
2,187 reviews724 followers
June 8, 2018
Thanks to the author for this free review copy!
There is really nothing I love more than falling in love with debut authors, especially self-published debut authors. You know why? Because well known authors published by one of the big publishing companies hardly have to do a THING to get books sold. The publisher does all of the work, and the name sells the book. Not so with a book like this one. I'm book buddies with the author on Instagram and was SO honored that she chose to trust me with one of her ARCs, but at the same time incredibly nervous, because.......well.......what if I didn't like it?
Now just imagine my delight when I started reading and absolutely fell in love with Olivia and Gram and Reagan and EVERYTHING! I am a primary caregiver for my own grandmother (Oma!) and Olivia's journey as Gram's Power of Attorney for Healthcare for Gram touched me so so deeply. The author's own experiences working with hospice gave such authenticity to the story and that shone through clearly.
Oh, and there is a sweet, sweet (closed door) romance between Olivia and one of the artists at her art gallery and I just loved it! No steamy sex scenes, just a slow-building relationship that is compassionate and empowered.
Highly recommended to fans of Amy Reichert and family-oriented chaste romances. This book tugged at my heart and made me sob uncontrollably, but overall left me with a deeply satisfied sense of all being right in the world.
LIBRARIAN NOTE: Kramer effortlessly includes characters of diverse races and sexual orientation in her story with a very welcome style ~ when a white person enters the room, she IDENTIFIES the person as white, it's not the default. So often white writers use white as the default and identify only the non-white characters as such. Kramer is sensitive and natural in her character descriptions and ensures that her book's world is not casually discriminatory as many (most) tend to be.
Profile Image for bethany m. planton.
422 reviews30 followers
May 31, 2018
I received a copy of this book for being part of the launch team. Thanks for the free book, Leigh Kramer.

A Storied Life is party contemporary, part romance, part death and dying, yet quite the page-turner. I just had to know what would happen with Olivia and the whole Fraiser family. It really will "make you rethink life, love, and loss." Kramer's experience with hospice really shines through the book. Are you living a storied life?
May 29, 2018
Olivia is an art gallery owner who's been tasked with managing her beloved grandmother's end of life care. In the same week, she meets the next artist who's work will be shown in her gallery. He turns out to be handsome and interested in her. Naturally, the timing couldn't be worse. She now must deal with navigating family drama, a new relationship, and her own emotional response to these last moments with her grandmother.

This novel features heavy topics with a chick lit vibe. It's easy to read and doesn't try to sound overly literary, which meant I flew through it in just a few days. I loved the unique blend of topics and how they were seamlessly intertwined in Olivia's life.

Taking care of an elderly loved one is certainly not something that you come across often in fiction, but I found myself particularly invested in that aspect of the story. Olivia's emotions, frustrations, and grief were well-written and I felt like I was experiencing everything with her.

Although Reagan isn't exactly my type, I was still curious to find out what would happen between him and Olivia. He did start to grow on me by the end, though!

This book will appeal to a variety of readers, both those who generally enjoy a light easy fiction read as well as anyone looking for more depth. The topic of end of life care makes this stand out from the typical summer/breezy fiction.

Thanks to Leigh for providing me a copy of this book!
Profile Image for Amy.
1,593 reviews132 followers
June 19, 2018
I really enjoyed this novel ... it's fantastic women's fiction with a touch of romance, grief and complex family dynamics. This novel has all the elements of a good novel - humor, great characters, emotional resonance and an amazing exploration of grief.

I think what I connected to most in the story was the relationship between Olivia and Gram. It reminded me a great deal of my relationship with my own beloved grandmother, especially as she became sick and needed more care. The journey that Olivia took as she faced the grief of losing a beloved family member felt very real to me. Given the author's experiences as a medical social worker, I think she did an amazing job of making the experience of being sick and of hospice come alive in this story. I definitely felt like she stayed true to life and the details she offered were excellent. There were moments during the reading experience that brought me to tears as it took me back to the moments I had with my own grandmother as she became sicker and as she passed away surrounded by those of us who loved her.

I also loved the romance aspect of the story ... Olivia and Reagan were such an interesting couple. The issues they faced as they came together were really well explored and felt honest and true to life. I was glad that the romance was a bit on the chaste side as it really blended well with the other focus of the book - family dynamics and grief. The family dynamics were complex and true to life. I enjoyed seeing the family grow together through the experience of grief.

I think Leigh Kramer did an excellent job with this novel and I can't wait to see what's to come from her! She's definitely a talented storyteller! I loved this novel and highly recommend it!

NOTE: I received a copy of this book from the author for an honest review.
Profile Image for Ashley at Reading Themes.
288 reviews12 followers
June 11, 2018
A Storied Life by Leigh Kramer is new this month and one I was given to read for free in exchange for my honest review. I enjoyed this book by a first time author. She used her experiences working in social work to beautifully describe the role of hospice in a family's life. A young woman becomes the POA to her grandmother and is in charge of making sure her grandma's wishes are fulfilled for end of life care. While taking on the responsibility of caring for her grandmother, she is also running an art gallery. Her life changes as she begins to share her own paintings with others and meets someone special which makes her wonder if she is finally getting the storied life that her grandmother wanted her to have. The story was touching and the writing style made it an enjoyable book. I look forward to this author's future work.
2 reviews1 follower
June 12, 2018
LK weaves a story that is both endearingly light, and heart-wrenchingly deep -- the joys of art and baseball juxtaposed against serious family crisis. You will want to be Olivia, be with Reagan, and through LK's words, will begin to learn a little of one of the greatest truths life has to offer: pain and joy go hand-in-hand.
Sit down with your favorite tea and be ready to get lost in the narrative of life, legacy, love, and living your story.
Profile Image for Cara.
100 reviews5 followers
July 15, 2018
Leigh!!!!! You can write!!! Loved it. Ugly cried a few times. Loved the glimpse into Hospice. It is very similar to our time with Grandma Wiley and our hospice experience. Loved it so so much.
Profile Image for Rachel Glass.
532 reviews
May 14, 2018
I really enjoyed this story of Olivia, a woman caught between her family and her dreams, despite the fact that she thinks she's escaped them. The end-of-life storyline was unusual and compassionate, and the author's experiences with this service and belief in its importance really shine through. Despite this potentially saddening subject matter, I felt the novel was full of hope and of the importance of being willing to learn and grow.

I really liked the character of Olivia and felt she was believably flawed while likeable, and her behaviour cycles (conscious and subconscious) were carefully and skilfully drawn and developed, and she experienced clear and convincing personal growth. For me, Reagan was a bit too 'good to be true', but this was somewhat redeemed for me by events towards the end of the book (though it's still obvious his intentions are only good).

There is lots going on in this book due to the busy nature of Olivia's life in this story - the end-of-life storyline, the romance storyline, the 'family saga' storyline - but this was really well handled and I was gripped to find out what would happen. Although I thought I knew how the ending would pan out in terms of the romance aspect of the novel, I wasn't entirely sure, which made it a real page-turner. I'll admit to shedding a few tears towards the end, and felt the strong emotions evoked by the subject matter were compelling and realistic.

I feel very fortunate to have received an ARC of this book and would recommend it - 4.5 stars (only because I'm extremely mean and picky about 5 star reviews!).
Profile Image for Stephany.
873 reviews43 followers
June 28, 2018
Disclosure: I was provided a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

I was seriously impressed by this debut novel and I found the writing to be exquisite. It wasn’t in an over-the-top, trying-too-hard-to-be-literary way. It was in a beautiful, I-wish-I-could-write-like-this-ughhhhhh way. It’s a book that will appeal to those who love a good fiction novel that explores deep issues of the human condition, most especially death and grief.

And because I want to be honest, I will say that it felt like the book slightly fell apart near the end. There was a scene involving the main character and her love interest that didn’t totally ring true to life for me, and it felt a little forced. As if the author wanted to sneak in a “dark moment” with their romance when there really wasn’t a reason for that at all. Another issue I had was with some of the scenes involving Olivia and her family because there were some confrontations that felt a little over the top.

However, even with those slight missteps, I still found this book to be an altogether fascinating read and one I would recommend to those who enjoy a good fiction novel that has a serious bend to it. I found Olivia to be a great character to follow, and I truly enjoyed her and could relate to the bond between her and her grandma.
Profile Image for Cara Meredith.
1,029 reviews23 followers
June 16, 2018
Such a great read by new author Leigh Kramer. It’s everything a novel should be: a plot line that keeps you wondering, love and lament, wit and laughter.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
3,120 reviews29 followers
August 14, 2018
This is Leigh Kramer's first novel. I heard her interviewed on the What Should I Read Next podcast and so enjoyed her. The book is a character-driven novel about Olivia. She has issues with herself and her family. Her grandmother asks her to care for her during her last months of cancer. The book was very thoughtful and well laid out. Yes, I knew how it would end, but the way the story was woven I enjoyed it to the very end.
Profile Image for Emily.
122 reviews38 followers
August 21, 2018
I have followed Leigh’s blog for several years and I really enjoy it, so I was excited to preorder the ebook of her first novel.

A Storied Life follows Olivia, an art gallery owner, as she deals with her beloved Gram’s Stage 4 cancer diagnosis and her new status as Gram’s Power of Attorney for Health Care. The same day she learns of the diagnosis, she meets a new gallery client, Reagan, and the two begin to fall for each other. The book covers a long span of time from Gram’s cancer announcement to her death to several months after. We see Gram’s illness progress and Olivia and Reagan’s relationship develop. Olivia also has a difficult relationship with her family apart from Gram, and we see how the cancer changes those relationships.

While I enjoyed the book, there were several elements that did make it hard for me to fully engage in the story. I felt like the timeline was not clearly delineated—at the start of the book Gram states she has only 6 months or less to live so presumably the action would take place over that period. But the book never made me felt like 6 months actually passed. There would be these huge jumps in time, but they were dismissed in one sentence. Olivia and Reagan’s relationship felt very new, even at the end of the book when they had supposedly been together for months.

I also felt like there was a lot of talking in this book, especially about Gram’s health issues and hospice care. Leigh used to be a hospice social worker and she clearly knows her stuff, but it did get tedious at places.

My last issue is that Olivia of course had to deal with her grief, but that was it. There were no money problems, no worries about losing her job, no other issues besides the grief. It seemed very unrealistic, though the depiction of hospice was obviously very realistic.

I also felt that unnecessary drama was thrown in and then said drama was resolved very quickly (accompanied by another time jump).

I enjoyed the book and I appreciated Leigh’s accurate depiction of hospice. This was a new type of romance novel—one that showed the main character had a complex life outside of her romance. This would also be a good book for anyone who wanting to understand more about hospice care in a more engaging way.
Profile Image for Suzanne.
211 reviews18 followers
June 30, 2018
The family dynamics in this book ring so true that I felt like I was in the room with them. Through every heated or awkward conversation, with every guarded move, I felt the pressure and nerves Olivia was feeling. At the same time, I wanted to take her out for a cup of tea (or something stronger) just to give her a breather. It’s unusual for me to relate to a character on such a visceral level. I was on Olivia’s side from the beginning.

I want to buy this book for everyone who is at a crossroads in their life, trying to choose between the options before them. Kramer does a great job of showing the struggle of unpacking choices that led down a path where Olivia didn’t necessarily intend to go.

My favorite part of the book, though, is the exposition of the family’s experience with hospice care. As my own parents are aging, and we are nearing a time in upcoming years when similar decisions are going to have to be enacted, this story relieved so many of my fears without being trite or formulaic. It would be so easy to tie a neat bow on this topic, leaving it flat, and that didn’t happen here. The author dove straight in and revealed the raw and touchy edges.

A Storied Life is the creation of a talented writer who does not shy away from the hard work of getting below the surface of what seems to be happening with her characters to reveal their motivations and desires. It makes them come alive and sets the story apart from others in its genre.

I am honored to have received an advance reader copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Tanya Marlow.
Author 2 books37 followers
December 19, 2018
Love and death – a surprisingly light yet sensitive tale of a woman in her thirties falling in love at the same time as walking her grandmother through terminal illness. A single woman, a successful curator of a gallery but with a divided and quarelling family, navigates new love at the same time as preparing for grief. Some will love it for its romantic love story, but what stood out for me was the character of the grandmother, who seemed better than anyone in managing her own death, and the way dying is described with respect but not fear. As the author worked in hospice care, this aspect opened up a taboo subject with sensitivity and education, which I found personally helpful.

This is more of an easy summer read rather than the literary fiction I normally go for, and I found it zipped along very enjoyably. Some characters and scenes are still with me – so this is definitely recommended – especially for anyone with an elderly relative who’s dying.
Profile Image for Susan.
500 reviews2 followers
January 12, 2019
I loved this story that is full of love and family. Olivia's grandma, one of her closest friends, always said "live a storied life". This gave Olivia the courage to bypass the family business of banking and instead pursue her love of art and painting. All went well until something unknown happened while she was studying in Paris during college. Since that time, she's rarely painted and instead owns a successful gallery where she conducts workshops and mentors young artists.

This is a story about family, about love, about grief and about the courage to follow one's dreams, or as Grandma says 'living a storied life." It shows us that it can be terrifying to "live a storied life", because we might encounter hurt along the way, but it can also bring us much joy. This is Leigh Kramer's debut novel and I'm so looking forward to seeing what's next!

Profile Image for Jen.
41 reviews4 followers
June 19, 2018
Thirty pages into Leigh Kramer’s debut novel and I was hooked – a protagonist who has trouble feeling included in her own family? Who has a viable career in an area she loves but still isn’t sure it’s the right place for her? Who has built a life for herself independent from, but not in spite of, a romantic relationship? OLIVIA JANE FRASIER IS MY KINDA GAL. Beyond family and romance, Olivia’s is a story of growth and loss, of finding yourself, of realizing your own abilities, and of reconciliation. In A Storied Life, Leigh’s ability as a writer meets her experiences as a daughter, granddaughter, friend, and social worker. What I noticed most, though, was the insight she brought to her book as a READER. I can’t wait to read whatever comes next!
Profile Image for Kristin.
888 reviews27 followers
August 13, 2020
A nice, light read. Tackles tough topics without getting too deep. Likeable main characters.

Two lines that caught my eye:

"If you have to make a decision, picture yourself telling someone what you chose and then go with whichever option makes the better story."

"She's not at risk for becoming addicted because she'll be taking the medication to address a physical need, instead of a psychological one."
3 reviews
June 24, 2018
This book was amazing!! I got about 1/4 of the way in, and was already looking forward to Leigh's next book! She described the things that I was hoping were described and did so in a clear manner, especially what it feels like to have anxiety and depression. The story was wonderful, the characters were relatable, and yeah, I cried at the end.
14 reviews
August 1, 2018
I took my time reading this book. It could have taken me about two sittings, but once I was about halfway through, I realized I was going to want MORE when I was done, so I savored this story. This is a beautiful maze of finding love, holding death's hand, and navigating the past's reminders. Leigh Kramer did a great job in her debut novel and I can't wait for what's next!
Profile Image for Jill.
850 reviews2 followers
January 17, 2020
I loved the premise of this book but the writing felt incredibly choppy, almost like a child who has a million things to tell you right at bedtime. And Olivia is WAY too dramatic for me. I found myself rolling my eyes and skimming the page to get through her hysterics about way too many things. Ugh. I appreciate the themes of family and forgiveness but not enough to recommend the book.
Profile Image for Carly Randolph.
74 reviews2 followers
May 29, 2021
While I did enjoy the overall storyline, I didn’t think the writing style was as strong as I needed it to be to really emotionally connecting. At times the storytelling was too logistical to reveal the emotional moments happening beneath.
19 reviews1 follower
June 18, 2018
A Storied Life was a delight to read and held so much nuance and thoughtful nods to typically problematic elements of a romance novel. I loved it!
Profile Image for Joan.
172 reviews
October 24, 2018
Loved this book! Her writing style was wonderful and what a well-written novel about life, love, and death.
Profile Image for Rachel Gosling.
60 reviews1 follower
October 31, 2018
A great story with interesting character development. You really come to root for the characters.
17 reviews
May 1, 2020
I love supporting small local authors and this is a perfect book to do just that. Simply beautiful & worth the read.
Profile Image for Elaine.
17 reviews
October 1, 2022
I don’t remember what motivated me to add this one to my shelf. It’s boring.
Profile Image for Kim.
Author 7 books1 follower
July 5, 2022
One of the main themes in A Storied Life is how we cope with the death of loved ones and the impact they have on how we choose to live. The story opens with the announcement of an impending death; the narrator is subsequently named the power of attorney for her dying grandmother. Kramer gives a realistic description of what it’s like to help a family member through the hospice process—the complicated decisions, the difficult conversations, the family disagreements, the personal and shared grief. The hospice details do go on for a bit, and some readers may find themselves skipping ahead, but I was riveted, simply because I've been in similar circumstances and will probably be so again. But Kramer’s story isn’t just about death. In fact, it’s more about life: the pursuit of dreams, the overcoming of past traumas and disappointments, the risks and the people who help us push forward or try to hold us back, the way we honor our loved ones by carrying on their best qualities. And if you like a little romance in your stories, that plays a central role, too. Kramer crafted this story with well-rounded characters and events, and it’s an enjoyable read.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 30 reviews

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