Trevor Riddell recounts the summer of 1990, when he was 14 and wanted to save his parents’ marriage. After his parents decide on a trial separation, Trevor and his father, Jones, venture to his father’s family mansion, Riddell House. Jones is hoping to join forces with his sister, Serena, in an attempt to convince their father, dementia-plagued Samuel, to sell the massive house and sprawling property. Built with profits of the Riddell Timber company fortune, the estate is valuable, but the family patriarch, Elijah, instructed his heirs to let the house and land naturally deteriorate and never be redeveloped as reparation for the mass deforestation and destruction performed by the Riddell Timber company. Family arguments between Jones, Serena, and Samuel result in a stalemate and Trevor soon discovers there is another resident of Riddell House: a ghost determined that Elijah’s mandate be performed.
The setting and narrator are wonderful in this novel. A haunted mansion, overlooking Puget Sound, with hidden stairways and rooms that give glimpses into the house’s past? What a perfect setting for a ghost story! Fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell as a narrator provides the perfect amount of curiosity in uncovering his family’s secrets. He doesn’t have any adults watching him too closely so his investigations are largely uninhibited, giving readers lots of details. Although this novel features a young narrator exploring his family’s history, I wouldn’t label it as YA. The details such as national parks history, Enlightenment, and the societal expectations of previous generations elevate the story to a more contemporary read with a touch of gothic. Author Garth Stein has written a perfect combination of a coming-of-age story, historical fiction, and ghost story. This is a great seasonal transition novel for after the summer beach reads and before the spooky, scary Halloween tales.
Born in Los Angeles and raised in Seattle, Garth’s ancestry is diverse: his mother, a native of Alaska, is of Tlingit Indian and Irish descent; his father, a Brooklyn native, is the child of Jewish emigrants from Austria. After spending his childhood in Seattle and then living in New York City for 18 years, Garth returned to Seattle in 2001, and lives there currently with his wife, three sons, and their dog, Comet.
A Sudden Light
Simon & Schuster
Pub Date Sep 30, 2014
Genre: multi-generational, historical fiction / ghost story
Ivory Owl Reviews