By Garth Stein
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 09/30/2014
My Rating: 4 Stars
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.
A special thank you to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Master storyteller and filmmaker, Garth Stein delivers his latest novel, A Sudden Light, a haunting family saga, set in Puget Sound (favorite), near Seattle, in the Pacific Northwest. Centered around The Riddell House, a 100-year-old mansion (falling apart), and acres of forest, narrated by the voice of smart, 14 yr. old Trevor Riddell, a boy seeking desperately to save his parent’s marriage, while uncovering a family history of dark secrets.
In 1990, Jones Riddell and his 14-year-old son, Trevor, move to the estate, following the failure of Jones’s business and his separation from Trevor’s mother. Jones is here to help his younger sister, Serena (wacko), persuade their Alzheimer’s-afflicted father, Samuel to sell the family land, which is worth a fortune, to real estate developers. (oops….and send him to an elderly living facility).
However, the ghost of family patriarch Elijah wants the land returned to wilderness to make amends for the millions of trees harvested by the Riddell Timber Company of the past. The mansion was built by Trevor's great-great-grandfather, a ruthless timber baron, surrounded by forested acreage.
Strong forces (spirits) stand in the way of the deal as Trevor begins to see ghosts and experience visions. While researching the Riddell history, a ton of dark shocking secrets began to surface—and the more Trevor dives into his ancestors' history, the more he learns of ghosts, incest, sexual secrets and even madness. (scandalous)!
A multi-generational historical saga, full of mystery, intrigue, love, ghosts, bit of paranormal, and suspense with flashbacks by an older Trevor. A family confronts long-buried secrets as it struggles for forgiveness and redemption with superb writing, well developed characters, and mixed with humor.
View the artist’s rendition of The North Estate, the central location of the novel, and hover over items for more information and relevant topics in the novel:
Paranormal, spirituality, spiritualism, GLBT, Seattle History, The Timber Barons, Tree Climbing, USFS National Parks and Grandpa Samuel’s Barn.
Fascinating! Would be nice for all authors to take the time to develop a similar rendition, and research, which pulls you into the story! As you can see by this array of topics, you are in for a real treat; a complex multi-layered novel— a house with a history, ghosts and family secrets from the past, and then you have the land which brings about environmental and moral issues. A mix of wacky, poetic, intriguing, mysterious, and beautiful.
I love reading stories about mysterious family’s secrets and intriguing old mansions, rich in history! Look forward to reading Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain, as this was my first book by this talented author.
Often I read not for the story, plot, or characters; however, read for the pleasure of engaging prose . . . Stein delivers; the other is just an added bonus!