A Sudden Light
Author: Garth Stein
Ebook: 400 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published date: September 2014
FTC: I requested to review from NetGalley
Wow. This is one of those books I've been meaning to review and what I gave a solid five stars on GoodReads. I thoroughly enjoyed Garth Stein's novel The Art of Racing in the Rain (my review) and one of my husband's all-time favorites. I even liked Raven Stole the Moon (my review). But you have to check out the novel A Sudden Light. Such a beautiful coming to age novel with such atmosphere I'd except to see in Neil Gaiman book. While the story is part ghost-story, I love that it's paranormal aspects are subdued. Anything more blatant I would call out as ridiculous while Stein makes this story believable. It's definitely my cup of tea.
Back of the book:
In the summer of 1990, fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell gets his first glimpse of Riddell House. Built from the spoils of a massive timber fortune, the legendary family mansion is constructed of giant, whole trees, and is set on a huge estate overlooking Puget Sound. Trevor’s bankrupt parents have begun a trial separation, and his father, Jones Riddell, has brought Trevor to Riddell House with a goal: to join forces with his sister, Serena, dispatch Grandpa Samuel—who is flickering in and out of dementia—to a graduated living facility, sell off the house and property for development into “tract housing for millionaires,” divide up the profits, and live happily ever after.
But Trevor soon discovers there’s someone else living in Riddell House: a ghost with an agenda of his own. For while the land holds tremendous value, it is also burdened by the final wishes of the family patriarch, Elijah, who mandated it be allowed to return to untamed forestland as a penance for the millions of trees harvested over the decades by the Riddell Timber company. The ghost will not rest until Elijah’s wish is fulfilled, and Trevor’s willingness to face the past holds the key to his family’s future.
A Sudden Light is a rich, atmospheric work that is at once a multigenerational family saga, a historical novel, a ghost story, and the story of a contemporary family’s struggle to connect with each other. A tribute to the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, it reflects Garth Stein’s outsized capacity for empathy and keen understanding of human motivation, and his rare ability to see the unseen: the universal threads that connect us all.
I absolutely gobbled up this story of Trevor Riddell of whom from the very beginning I felt such an empathy towards. His mother and father are taking a separation in their marriage, they just lost their home his father is tasked with taking Trevor back to Riddell House - the mansion where they are to figure out how to talk his senile grandfather into selling the family estate.
I just adored the atmosphere the Garth Stein created. The author is from and familiar with the Pacific Northwest and what a setting. I also loved that he set the story in 1990, not in modern times. I think it works for the story's time-line but also because Trevor Riddell isn't able to plug into an ipod or smart phone and ignore the world and his problems. (Yeah yeah he could have a walkman or whatever but you know what I mean.)
The story is told with ghostly attributes but also with definite flashbacks to the stories of his ancestors who first built the house and digs into their secrets. While it might not be everyone's cup of tea, I love this because I am such a history geek but I also think that relationships and people are interesting and sympathetic whatever the time period. I also love how he made the house almost like the center character. It really reminded me of Sarah Waters very atmospheric story The Little Stranger (my review) where the English estate really a pivotal character.
While I really enjoyed Garth Stein's previous novels, especially The Art of Racing in the Rain, I think A Sudden Light is my new favorite novel of his. Definitely worth checking out.
Here's Garth Stein talking about A Sudden Light: