THE WAY HE LIVED is about Joel, only Joel isn't around anymore. He died in a tragic camping accident. Those left behind are trying to make sense of it all and decide how to continue on without him.
Written from six different points of view, it reveals Joel piece by piece. His sisters Tabbatha and Claire tell what life is like for them since his death. Both are confused that their parents chose this difficult time to move the remaining family from the house where they grew up to a luxurious seven bedroom house in the high-end part of town. Their father throws himself into his work, and their mother who always had her "bad days" seems to only find solace by locking herself away in her room and letting the family muddle on without her. Emotionally sensitive Tabbatha gradually finds a reason to slowly move on toward a possible college life, and Claire has to runaway before she is ready to come back and face what is left behind.
The other voices of the novel belong to Joel's friends and acquaintances. They include Adlen, Miles, Norah, and Lissa. Their stories link to Joel through direct personal relationships or by way of others connected to him. Each person has their version of this respected but slightly mysterious individual.
Much like our own lives, each person presents a unique picture to each different person with whom we connect. Can a true picture ever be created of anyone after they are gone? It seems only you might know the real you.
Emily Wing Smith is able to capture each personality. The flow and tone of each chapter is unique to the individual. She presents their pain and their fear of moving on without this missing person who so touched their lives. There is a feeling of true loss and sadness, but it is coupled with hope and the human desire to carry on.