While I don’t go out of my way to read ghost stories, I have heard very good things about Garth Stein that I gave his latest novel A Sudden Light a try. It’s not a scary story, but the story weaves the human condition, curiosity and mystery together wonderfully.
The story follows Trevor Riddell, a fourteen-year-old boy, who tags along with his father to the Riddell estate in the Pacific Northwest. He hopes to save his parents’ marriage since they’re undergoing a trial separation after they filed for bankruptcy. His father, Jones Riddell, plans to work alongside his sister, Serena, to convince their ill father to sell the property and live in a retirement home. Jones believes once he settles the estate’s affairs and divides profits he can then live happily ever after. However, Trevor uncovers that the ghost haunting the Riddell home hopes the Riddell family will honour an old promise.
This novel was an enjoyable read. For the most part, it had a smooth and steady pace. However, there were moments, especially when there were flashbacks of the past, when things got slow and even a little boring. The flashbacks do help form the story, but I wish they had the same pacing as the rest of the novel.
Each character had amazing personalities, very distinct. It was interesting to witness how the main character, Trevor, interacted with his father, mother, his aunt Serena, and grandfather. I found his relationship with his father to be frustrating. My heart went out to Trevor, understanding how much he wanted to return to his mother in the UK. His relationship with his grandfather was a little more lighthearted and gentle, getting to know a man he never met before. Eventually, they begin to bond and learn more about each other, which is difficult at first because it seems his grandfather is suffering from dementia.
Then, there’s Serena. She starts out sweet, but as the story progresses, you begin to realize she is the villain of the story. There’s not many stories that have female villains, so I thought it was a lovely change. She’s manipulative. Even though she dresses well and speaks politely, she has a way of controlling the people around her. The first time Trevor meets Serena he’s quite taken with her. He even confesses that his hormones get the best of him, getting all hot and bothered by his aunt, which every time it happens pulled me out of the story. It just seemed out of place, but it does somewhat foreshadows a later plot point.
If you love ghost stories or open to reading one, I recommend A Sudden Light. The mystery about who the ghost is and what he wants is gradually unveiled, much like pulling back a curtain slowly. The story is beautifully written and the characters are so well-developed that they could jump out of the pages and live in the real world.
*Disclosure: An advance reading copy was provided from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions within this review are solely my own, not that of the publisher or the author.