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Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite
Life on a Cliff is the sequel to the highly successful Cliff Walking by author Stephen Russell Payne. Focusing in deep detail on the highly emotional and difficult life of recovering addict Kate Johnson, the sequel continues her journey with her artistic son, Stringer, and her newfound relationship with the seascape artist, Francis Monroe. Set once again in the dramatic coastal clime of Maine, this novel makes it clear that even when the dramas of life are over, the scars still remain. Kate can’t help but be damaged by the life she once had with her abusive husband, Leland, and even in newfound happiness, her own past threatens to inhibit positive change.
Stephen Russell Payne certainly knows how to write an emotional tour de force with humanity at its heart. Despite not having read Cliff Walking, I was immediately drawn into Kate’s character and able to understand her motivations, fears and past demons. I felt great sympathy for Francis in trying to understand her, but ultimately this is Kate’s tale of going through the psychological motions of a difficult event when that event is finally laid to rest. Written as a ‘calm after the storm’ drama, Stephen Russell Payne’s prose is smooth and effective, his dialogue realistic and his sense of plot and timing truly devastating in places. This is a journey that drama seekers will certainly enjoy, even if it pains them at times. Overall, Life on a Cliff taps into a deep emotional humanity that is sure to touch readers of all walks of life.