Monday, 22 September 2014

Review: A Sudden Light by Garth Stein

When a boy tries to save his parents’ marriage, he uncovers a legacy of family secrets in a coming-of-age ghost story by the author of the internationally bestselling phenomenon, The Art of Racing in the Rain.

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.

Hardcover, 416 pages
Expected publication: September 30th 2014 by Simon & Schuster

Terri's Thoughts

**I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher Simon & Schuster via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  the expected publication date is September 30, 2014**

I was highly anticipating this story as it promised to be full of all of the stuff I enjoy in a great novel.  A story that transitions between the past and today, secrets from the past and present, and the bonus aspect of a ghost story.  This story was almost a no brainer to be a winner.  Sadly this was not the case for me and I finished it a little disappointed.

This story too descriptive for me.  When the description of a house or a tree drags on for more than a page then my attention starts to drift which it did throughout this book.  This may sound harsh but I actually fell asleep (numerous times) trying to pick my way through it.  It made for a very long read.

While the bones of the story was a good one I felt that the pieces just didn't come together.  Trevor was too smart for a fourteen year old boy, the dad didn't add any substance to the story, and Serena's character and storyline was obvious from the get go.  Add in Elijah and Ben and they didn't get any more interesting nor did their story.

I appreciated the ghost story aspect of the novel and how it was used to intertwine the two stories.  I actually wish the book focused more on this as opposed to the craziness of Trevor's family.  It would have been more interesting and left more of an impact.

While I always try to profile the positive in a story this one was simply not for me and therefore I am struggling.  I urge people to form their own opinion on this one as I can see this being the type of story you love or hate.  For me there just wasn't enough substance.  My favorite part of this review is Stein's Goodreads profile picture which I must admit is awesome!

About the Author

Garth Stein is the author of three novels: The Art of Racing in the Rain (Harper, 2008); How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets (Soho Press, 2005), which won a 2006 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Book Award, and was a Book Sense Pick in both hardcover and paperback; and Raven Stole the Moon (Pocket, 1998). He has also written a full-length play, Brother Jones, which received its first production in Los Angeles, in February, 2005, and was described as "brimming with intensity," by the L.A. Weekly.

After receiving his B.A. from Columbia College (1987), and his M.F.A. in film from Columbia University, School of the Arts (1990), Garth worked as a documentary film maker for several years, and directed, produced or co-produced several award winning films.

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, where he currently lives with his family and his dog, Comet.

1 comment:

  1. I have an ARC of this one and it sounds really interesting. Thanks for the honest review. I will still decide for myself if I like it, but I appreciate the info. I'm kind of glad going into it that it focuses more on the coming-of-age part of the story and less on the ghost part of the story. Have to say I'm a little glad to hear that.

    Great review!
    Cassi @ My Thoughts Literally