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Shoes on the Stairs

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***An International Best-Seller and Best Book Awards Finalist***

Inspired by the many frustrations of parenthood and the ever-present fear of failure, SHOES ON THE STAIRS centers around a mother’s struggle to accept what she has left behind after her death. She takes the reader on a journey of both laughter and tears while learning even the smallest of gestures can make a significant and lasting impact.

Claire Blackwell can’t find that damn white light. Thanks to a mishap at an intersection, she’s dead and stuck somewhere between Heaven and what seems like Hell as she is forced to watch her husband and children unravel without her. While she struggles to find answers for her limbo state, her family begins to see her, offering what she believes, is a gift of second chances.

As she navigates through this new, untouchable world and the challenges it creates, she is forced to face some sad and potentially dangerous truths. Determined, she works to mend her relationship with her family, but her stubborn teenage son refuses to acknowledge her, and when tensions escalate with his long-time bully, her inability to control the physical world around her leaves her fearing for her family’s safety. With her time running out, she must find a way to save them before the progress she has made is lost and she fades from this world forever.


Published July 1, 2019

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About the author

Jan Steele

1 book65 followers
Jan Steele grew up in the burbs of Chicago and after thirty-two years of shoveling snow, moved to San Diego with her husband and children. She has taught everything from Kindergarten through high school but found her passion for writing years later while living as an expat in Asia for four years. She is a contributing author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, Miracles and More (2018), an MFA graduate at UC Riverside, and shares a blog with her sister-in-law, www.killingjunecleaver.blogspot.com. You can also visit her at her website, www.jansteeleauthor.com. In addition to writing, she loves to travel, volunteer, watch college basketball (go Zags!) and sunsets.

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5 stars
223 (64%)
4 stars
83 (23%)
3 stars
35 (10%)
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5 (1%)
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1 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 84 reviews
Profile Image for Shalini.
2,477 reviews199 followers
August 20, 2019
I got to read this book, and I consider myself fortunate. The emotions in it caused me to have a lump in my throat so many times. Love was beautifully portrayed, and a mother's love for her family was pure and eternal.

A fatal road accident where Claire lost her life, but her soul hanged around in a limbo. There was something she perhaps had to do. She then decided to be a fly on the wall and see her children's lives, if possible help them. Few hard truths came to life, shocking and heartbreaking, and soon her family started seeing and hearing her. But everything came with conditions...

My first book by author Jan Steele, and I have to admit she was brilliant. Every word bespoke of a world of emotions. In life we spend so much time doing, that we forget being, being with the family, enjoying the small moments with them. I loved how the author brought all this out as Claire realized what she had missed and what she had to do now. Having their mother with them gave great solace to the children and helped them to be okay. But nothing came free of cost...

Bullying and organ donation were dealt sensitively by the author, writing it in the prose, making it a vital part of the story without hampering the emotions or being preachy. That was commendable of the author. This book left me with so many emotions, I got to see both sides of life.

The author Jan Steele was right when she wrote there was no use regretting the past, the present and the future were all that mattered. I wish I could keep writing about this book, but sometimes too many emotions choke the words from the brain. I can only end the review repeating my words. This book was simply brilliant. A must read!!
Profile Image for Gloria ~ mzglorybe.
1,022 reviews90 followers
June 13, 2020
This is a story about one woman’s life coming to an end, and the limbo she is in as she observes her family until she can proceed to her just reward. She is in for a very insightful look at her busy life. Claire is a wife and mother of 3. Life in her household is pretty typical for the times, everyone busy with jobs, school, feeling the many pulls in various directions. Just getting everyone going in the morning seems to be a major challenge. This is where the shoes come in, but you’ll have to read it to “get” it. The novel addresses many issues commonplace with families in todays society; peer pressure, bullying and even organ donation.

I loved this multi-layered original story line. Totally relatable, with just the right amount of humor and wit, but one that will still give you a lump in your throat as you read along. It is emotional, obviously, just the plot tells you that, but it isn’t written in any morose manner, just sensibly, and realistically. The reader can easily tell how much this family loves each other but how much they need and miss the “glue” (mom) that held them all together. It’s obvious why Claire’s soul is lingering around, she still has work to do on her family, accomplishing that is what she needs to fulfill before heading off into the light and the hereafter …but how much time will she have to do this… enough?

I delighted in accompanying Claire on this insightful temporary journey where she can’t tangibly touch or feel anything with her hands, but how she can still influence her family’s attitudes and actions. She has an elevated sense of hearing and can hear each of their heartbeats, even distinguish between them and learns how to share the love that is in her own heart with each of her loved ones, leaving them with the assurance that a mother’s love is eternal, and a wife’s is too. It may sound sappy to you, but it seemed wonderful to me. The talent and construction of the writing well crafted.

This was a welcome change of pace for me. I didn’t realize I needed to read this but am certainly happy I did. There is so much death going on around us, people mourning lost lives to Covid-19 and more. Reading this will bring anyone hope that death is not to be feared, it’s just the next chapter on this journey of life. I’m not a big fan of fantasy/paranormal writings, and some may say this crosses over into that proximity but it was so well crafted that it seemed natural for it to take this path.

This is my first read by author Jan Steele and I’m happy to have gotten acquainted with her sensitive writing style. I don’t give out 5-stars easily, but I think this effort deserves every one.

“In life we spend so much time doing, that we forget “being” …being with the family, enjoying the small moments with them."
Profile Image for Heather W.
3,951 reviews25 followers
August 30, 2019
Shoes on the Stairs is the first book I have read by Jan Steele but it will not the last.

This is a beautiful and emotional story of a mother's life lost, her afterlife, and the family she left behind. The author deals with topics such as bullying, organ donation, and grief in a way that engages you and keeps you reading until the end.

I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.
Profile Image for Ginger Harvey.
75 reviews2 followers
June 27, 2020
Being the mom of three children; I adored this book. Such a precious book about a family of five. Three kiddos, a mom and dad.
Although the loss occurs; the family finds faith, strength and love to move forward.....
I became a single mom when my children were around the age of the kids in the book. I can relate to the storyline.
Profile Image for Energy (Rae's Reading).
1,423 reviews33 followers
July 18, 2019
I was first drawn to the cover and blurb of Shoes on Stairs, so I was excited to read this. We follow Claire as she manages this new afterlife in which she hasn't quite made it to heaven and is with her family instead. She learns some startling truths about not just her children but her husband as well.

So often in life we really don't appreciate the people in our lives, we take advantage of our most precious resource, time. We see that in Claire's story, that she doesn't quite know what her children are up to, especially her daughter Ivy who is someone she barely recognizes. She wants to be there for her family but as a ghost, there's only so much she can do. It limits her abilities to just communication, and when her son feels she's failed them all too much, he doesn't want to even admit she's still there.

Shoes on Stairs is a touching portrait of how fast our children grow and how easy it is to take advantage of the fact we think it always be like "this", our children young, always listening to us, sharing everything with us, when it just isn't so. It was a shame the lessons had to come at such a cost, but it was truly enjoyable watching the characters grow. Nicely done.
Profile Image for Jacqueline.
1,600 reviews139 followers
October 10, 2021
This was an odd story. I couldn’t leave it alone even though it was kind of making me miserable. The narrator is a woman who’s just been killed in a fatal accident who then watches her husband and three kids trying to move on without her. I kept hoping for a Bobby Ewing moment but, nope. Poignant and thought provoking but so terribly emotional to read. Complete story, available on ku.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
7 reviews
August 14, 2019
This was a fantastic read! I don't normally choose stories like this to read, but it was an amazing story. You will get all the feels in this story.
Profile Image for Janet.
170 reviews70 followers
July 28, 2019
Amazing tale and definitely deserving of 5 stars! I truly loved this story and really felt the pain and sorrow that Claire was going through. Really a unique look at the after-life and what might happen if one does not go on but hangs around, yet still can't truly touch their family; however, Claire soon does start interacting with them and although she knows she can't "Be" with them she is with them in a sense and it's phenomenal how the author gives us this angle. This is my first book by Ms. Steele and I must say I am now a true fan and will be definitely getting more of her books. I would highly recommend this book if you're looking for a really deep, feel-good book.
192 reviews1 follower
May 14, 2021
I really enjoyed the story and the characters . The story makes you realize how short life is and to spend your time on the important things .
Profile Image for Athena D..
866 reviews49 followers
August 21, 2019
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 STARS

This book brought tears to my eyes and gave me so many feels!

Shoes on the Stairs took me on a journey of EPIC proportions!!! As a mother, I could relate to the main character, Claire Blackwell. Her unexpected situation resonated with me and made me question how I live and see my everyday life. Be prepared to laugh and cry when reading this book!

Shoes on the Stairs by Jan Steele will join the ranks of the BIBLIO-ARISTOCRACY!!!
1 review
July 10, 2019
Moms everywhere will relate and enjoy this debut novel. A well written, heartwarming story full of drama, with just the right amount of humor woven through! Jan Steele's character development put such a vivid picture in my mind that I felt like I was inserted into the story myself, that's just how well I felt I got to know the characters.
Claire, mother of three, constantly faces feelings of insecurity, doubt, jealousy, inadequacy, and fear. Claire's fear of failure as a mother consumes her, and now she's dead. Had she truly failed her family? Will they survive without her? Can Claire protect them? Maybe....a guardian angel for her children perhaps? If only it were that easy. All of Claire's fears still swarm inside her, even in death. And worse, she can't find that white light, stuck in limbo between Heaven and Earth, forced to watch her family unravel, and powerless to help. Her son Edward's struggles with a bully escalate into what could become a problem for the whole family. Teenage daughter Ivy feels invisible, and being popular is high on her list of priorities. Is it worth the risks she's willing to take? Sweet 6 year old Jasmine (Jazzy) has a tummy ache every school day and can never find her shoes. How will her husband Brad manage? He doesn't even know where the phone numbers are for the kids' doctors! Claire's limbo state becomes increasingly uncomfortable as she watches Bridgett Radcliff insert herself into her home and her children's lives. After all, Bridgett, successful author, (despite being a single mother of 2 with a perfect figure to boot) was one of the last topics Claire and Brad had talked about the morning of her accident, and now she comes over uninvited on Thanksgiving day wearing a sweater which leaves little to the imagination?
I couldn't put this book down. I had developed a relationship with each of the characters well before I finished the book. I just wanted to hold and cuddle little Jazzy. And that Bridgett chick? Well, she just might have some redeeming qualities, even after a terrible blunder that throws Claire's family into yet another crisis, as if Brad needs one more thing on his plate, and Claire needs one more thing she can't fix.
Profile Image for Jennifer Patino.
47 reviews2 followers
July 20, 2019
"Shoes on the Stairs" is a heartwarming novel about a woman who dies suddenly and is given the chance to visit her family as a ghost. Unresolved family issues arise as each member starts to become aware of her presence and can even communicate with her. The novel is filled with different emotions. Tender scenes are balanced with some pretty good humor. The three children in the family have many real life issues in school to contend with, and bullying is a big theme in the book. The ending is very intense and the plot twists were impactful. Very well written. Jan Steele is a great writer, but there was a really cringe-worthy part of the book that as a Native American I did not appreciate. We are not "honored" or "celebrated" when people dress up, or dress their children up, as us or make a mockery of our names and naming ceremony. No one gets to choose "an Indian name". It is a sacred, spiritual name to us given through ceremony, and only native people can have these "Indian names". To some indigenous people, these so-called "Indian names" are just their names. This is extremely disrespectful to native people. Other than that, it's a good read about the bond of family love. Three stars.
1 review1 follower
November 11, 2019
Hits close to home...

I gave the book 4 Stars.
Reason - I grew up in the burbs of Chicago.
And moved to Poway when I was in middle school.
I often wonder what happens when I pass on.
I cried at the beginning of the 4th chapter
Good for you and Now a Hometown Hero.
Profile Image for Janell Madison.
291 reviews8 followers
August 9, 2019
This book immediately got my attention!

Claire, an over scheduled Mom, sounds a lot like me! Loves the snooze button, yoga pants are the best, my age, my hair color, my eye color-WHAT?!! I know-how could I not be drawn in to this book? And, I loved it. The message it has is so current for today-actually there’s more than one message! But, the main one is this-Bullying is a very real thing-and it goes through many stages. Let’s all keep our eyes and ears open to fight this very real problem! Five stars, without a doubt!-Janell, Green Gables Book Reviews

Claire’s day starts like any other, with the alarm clock, and the snooze button. Why is every morning like this? Tired, rushed, overbooked, kids don’t want to go to school, Jazzie can’t find her shoes and everyone ends up a little out of sorts and her husband Brad? He seems oblivious to the chaos as he enjoys his coffee. How does he not see this morning tornado everyday?

To add to the stress, Claire has to make an unexpected trip to school to deliver a forgotten item. How can she add this to her already crammed schedule? She heads to school and to get through her day. Whoever would have thought a regular day would end with an intersection mishap and trying to find the white light everyone talks about? Where is it? She knows it has to be here!

Claire soon finds herself caught between Heaven and what feels like Hell as she sees her family trying to go through life without her. She sees their pain, their grief, her teenagers mistakes. What can she do? She longs to help them. She fears, especially for Edward, who is having to deal with a bully from years ago, who made his life miserable. When she sees Ivy is having to deal with the same bully after a scary incident, she fears for her older children’s safety.

This book puts a new spin on bullying. It is a unique angle for a Mom to see what happens when it seems no parent is around. We need to all keep our eyes and ears open to what our kids are saying, and actually listen when they talk to what they are and are not saying in the conversations we have. Such a well written book that address 3 very real subjects in a more light hearted way. 5 stars, without a doubt!

Thank you to Jan Steele and Booksprout for sending this book to me to read and review!
Profile Image for Georgina Power.
321 reviews4 followers
August 31, 2019
Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Wow what a book!! I honestly do not think I have ever become so emotionally invested in a book before, I just had to keep reading, and binged the book in 2 days.

Throughout Shoes on the stairs we follow Claire in her life after death, seeing how her family are coping with her passing away and the shock of making certain decisions and learning to live without her. Throughout the story we see her husband Brad and three children, Edward, Ivy and Jasmine all dealing with their own grief and personal problems, whilst also experiencing how Claire is feeling about witnessing all of this whilst desperately wanting to be back with her family.

I felt the book was very well written and thought through, and I loved the fact that the problem of bullying is a main plot point of the book (and I especially liked the authors note about this at the end) and I really like the way this was introduced and dealt with throughout the book.

At the end of the book when you find out that Claire was seen by all family members differently because they were all seeing their own personal favourite memory was so cute and so spot on! It's especially important to remember that people experiencing bereavement will always have different memories of the individual and I feel the author has paid great attention to all the details for this book.

Another thing I loved was the dialogue between Claire & Edward when he was hurt, and I shed so many tears on the 2 page epilogue! Which I found so lovely, especially when you discover why the book is called Shoes on the stairs!

For me the moral of this story is that family can get through anything together, especially as throughout this book we watched all the family members bonds and unconditional love for each other grow and develop stronger ties, I mean the way Edward protected Ivy was everything!

My only negative about this book is that I don't think much was spoken about the cause of the accident, which you discover is because Claire was driving and texting, and I felt that this could of been mentioned more and used to help deter a few more people.

Other than that the book is amazing!!

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
7 reviews
July 30, 2019
A well crafted and well written story! As it began, I kept hoping what appeared to be happening, wasn't, but it did. (You'll have to read it to understand!). The story is compelling and uplifting. While there were plenty of times when I found I had sand in my eyes (must have been a sandstorm in my living room!), it was a happy read. I enjoyed Claire's release of her worldly cares and loving understanding that her family needed to move on. The story touched me; all of us who are parents have found ourselves in Claire's shoes, juggling schedules and trying to maximize the efficient use of time, forgetting why we're really here. As I read, I found myself letting go of some of those "things" that keep me from being in the moment with my teenager. When I finished, I went upstairs to her room and hugged her. Ms. Steele has crafted a sweet fable that gets her points across in a meaningful, but almost subliminal way. I applaud her! I also recommend this book, not just for parents, but for people who care about other people.
Profile Image for Linda.
382 reviews41 followers
September 23, 2020
Shoes on the Stairs could be about any busy wife and mother, any family. We try to do it all, be there for everyone, take care of all the details of family life and often are the managers of our busy family. Claire is so busy rushing around, doing everything herself, that she forgets to enjoy her life, her husband and her children. They take her for granted. That is, until she makes a fatal mistake while driving to her son's school-she texts him that she's bringing his detention slip he forgot and drives right into traffic and her death.

What follows is Claire watching her family struggle from the hospital, to the funeral and afterwards, as they try to cope with their grief and she tries to help them accept her death and move on. Brad, the husband has to learn how to take charge, his children have to learn to get along and take care of each other now and pitch in. There's a dangerous bully who terrorizes the two older children, while the youngest child has nightmares and cries for her mother. Nothing is the same but they all must move on, learn to cope and be brave. This one will bring tears, sighs, smiles and giggles. Definitely one to read, but it will hurt.
Profile Image for Kathy.
526 reviews11 followers
July 28, 2019
The writing and flow of the words caught me first thing in this book. It was just like the beginning of a prologue; you know those things you skip if you’re anxious and want to start a book? And yet it grabbed my attention and I couldn’t quit reading, not even there. I did the “just one more page” thing for several pages, or at least until people were yelling at me to come on.

Not only were Jan Steele’s characters realistic but I thought this whole book brought up some questions for thought. Would you want to be able to see how your family managed after you were gone? Feel their pain and not be able to help? See their new joys and experience your own pain? Plenty of food for thought.

So that’s what this book did…provided an easy read, something possibly everyone could identify with, all at the same time creating an enjoyable sort of good feeling read.
Profile Image for Twila Mason.
Author 2 books58 followers
July 31, 2020
I love this book! The description drew me in, as I am currently a stay at home mom that gave up a career. I’m also frazzled, stressed, and admittedly feely greatly under appreciated. The concept that the mom dies and sees how her family functions without her was intriguing. The scenes surrounding her death are heart wrenching. The author really expresses the characters emotions so well. It’s hard to explain without spoilers, but man, I could feel their pain. All of the characters seem so real and imperfectly human. Tackling the afterlife is no easy feat, but the author does it amazingly well. I usually figure out a book’s plot by halfway through, but this one kept me guessing until the end. Honestly this book made me evaluate my own life as I read it, and changed the way I view some parts of my life. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Sharon.
4,152 reviews27 followers
September 16, 2019
This is my first time reading this author and what a book to read! This is a heartbreaking story but it’s also heartwarming in ways as well. It makes a person, especially me being a mother, stop and think. It touches on so many subjects and I encourage everyone to have a box of tissues handy whilst reading this story. It’s so wonderfully written, there is a religious aspect to the story as the mother once she has died is caught between Heaven and hell. I found this story very moving and welcomed the bits of humor that the writer included.

I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.
5,276 reviews
September 27, 2019
Jan Steele’s talent really shines through with her new release Shoes on the Stairs. I found the plot to be a unique one and it is quite refreshing to read something new to me. It was interesting to find that the main character, Claire, has become a ghost. With her new “life”, she sees the family she left behind in a whole different light. She discovers and learns more than she wanted to about them. I only intended to read just a few chapters before going to bed but wound up staying up to read the whole book.
Shoes on the Stairs is getting a well deserved five plus stars from me. I recommend this book for others readers. It is most definitely worth a read and should not be missed. I would love to find out where Miss Steele’s imagination will take her readers to in her next release. I am looking forward to it.
I received this book from the publisher. This review is 100% my own honest opinion.
6,691 reviews79 followers
August 29, 2019
This is an interesting and unique story that captured and held me from page one to the end. The author does a fantastic job bringing strong well developed characters and weaves a story of a mother's undying love for her family,even after death. It's an emotional story that's both heartwarming and sad and is brought to life with very descriptive writing and detailed scenes with so much emotion that you can feel them coming through the pages. It's a story of family,love and dealing with life's happenings .. as in the bullying going on in this story. I loved and highly recommend this book.

I voluntarily reviewed an ARC of this book. All opinions in this review are my own and freely given.
Profile Image for C. Gonzales.
755 reviews23 followers
November 5, 2019
This is such a powerful read that was unlike anything I've read. I loved the fact that Jan Steele was able to give us a unique, emotional, and inspiring story.

I loved reading about Claire and her journey. There is so much in this book that is more than just being a mom and watching over your children forever, it melds so many important lessons and themes right along with that.

It's whimsical and has humorous moments while being serious and emotional. Jan Steele really manages to succeed in every area of writing with this one.
Profile Image for Michelle.
166 reviews3 followers
November 6, 2021
The cost of texting and driving.

I truly wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy this book however I have loved every piece of it. The best thing about a book to me is when the author can put so much emotion into the words and it causes me to cry. I’m trying to type these words through my crocodile tears.

The author hits on multiple issues that people face today and she does it well. She also is able to truly make each character have a front spot in the book.

I would recommend this to anyone and can’t wait for the next.
1 review1 follower
December 28, 2019
I knew Jan back in the days when we were both expat moms. When I found out she wrote a book, I needed to read it, wow, what a great read.
It elicits so many emotions, from beginning to end and leaves you with a sense that there is so much we moms do that affects our kids, good and maybe not so good.
Is gives you a second chance to look long and hard at ourselves and really find out what our kids are all about.
Congrats Jan, you have an amazing talent and I look forward to your next novels. Keep writing my friend!

1,436 reviews19 followers
January 10, 2021

I won this book through a Goodreads giveaway. This is my honest review. If I could give 10 stars it would not be enough for this book. I warn you ahead of time, to have the tissues ready. This book will grab ahold of you from the beginning. When you are a Mother, your children are your life. When someone is hurting, you hurt too. This journey is about love and letting go. I cannot say enough without telling you the story, but it is a must read for every Mother or parent. Please be there for them.
Profile Image for Amanda.
155 reviews21 followers
October 10, 2019
I received a complimentary copy from the author via Voracious Readers Only. After reading the synopsis I knew this story would pack an emotional punch, and boy, did it ever! I don’t remember the last time I felt like I was feeling the emotions along with the characters. This was a fantastic book that was well written. Grab the Kleenex box though - I needed it all the way through.
318 reviews
September 9, 2019
I laughed, I cried , I could barely put this book down. Such real life emotions, such real life characters. Bullying, child abuse, death, love , it's all here. Can hardly wait to read more by this author

I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.
Profile Image for Ramcy Diek.
Author 5 books160 followers
October 19, 2019
I looked forward to reading this book and wasn't disappointed. What a heart warming tale about a mother who loves her family more than anything in the world, and then is forced to say goodbye in the most heartbreaking manner.
All the characters are real, the husband just as much in love with her as she was with him. The children, their loss too overwhelming.
I had no idea how it would end, but Jan Steele came up with the perfect solution, satisfying for all. Although not uplifting, I found it a great read. Jan Steele is a talented author and I recommend this book. We can't emphasize enough how bullying can destroy lives.
Profile Image for Lori Oliver-Tierney.
Author 1 book19 followers
October 25, 2019
As a mother my heart was breaking for the mom in this story. Like the book said, Was she in heaven or hell when she got to see her kids and husband after she passed away. It was a very clever way to remind us all to make the most of our life on earth. I related to the family and understood the mother's anguish over things that were happening in her children's lives. I kept thinking that it wasn't fair that so many tragedies happened to this one family-but then who said life is fair. The way the author portrayed with honesty the love and problems in this family was commendable. A great debut novel.
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