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 best-selling phenomenon The Art of Racing in the Rain.
In the summer of 1990, 14-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.
©2014 Garth Stein (P)2014 Simon & Schuster Audio
It's October; who doesn't like a ghost story this time of year; Garth Stein has a pretty impressive track record (The Art of Racing in the Rain); lots of high ratings; fellow well-credentialed authors gave some enticing blurbs...if it sounds like I'm thinking aloud, I'm trying to figure out where I went wrong -- because this was the wrong book for me. I'm not sure whom this book is for.
My biggest complaint, and one that is consistent when I'm duped, is that it is presented as one thing, "a ghost story," but is something very different, but what I'm not sure. It could be a message about conservation, a spiritual philosophy, a Puget Sound Broke Mountain (melodramatically, "the dark past of his forefathers"), but it's not a ghost story.
The *ghost* element seems more an excuse, or a utilitarian connection to history; the ghosts themselves limp and (NPI) lifeless -- dancing in ballrooms, turning out the lights, writing messages through human Ouija boards. The story had an over reliance on the diaries and their expository dialogue, which could have been passable but came across as a lazy means to move the story forward. Stein is heavy-handed with the philosophy that's suppose to bolster the plot, and spouts it often and unnecessarily, from the mouth of a temporarily possessed grandfather. The 14 yr. old narrator Trevor also possess an uncanny repertoire of philosophy and literature. Like all of the characters, there was a thinness, a randomness, even a falseness to Trevor. Both the characters and the plot seemed to fall apart under the weight of an ambiguous sense of importance.
There is plenty of restless wandering here, but not from any ghosts. In my opinion, an unsuccessful melding of too many random elements, not well thought out or executed, and not particularly well written. Only Hope propelled me -- battling all the while with contrivance, predictability, and banality -- as far into this novel as I got. I don't like to write mean-spirited or pernicious reviews, and I like to think I could say anything I write face to face with the author...I heard Stein's other books are good, but I can't say the same about this one.
Stein's story is fascinating and well written, but the narrator is the worst I have ever heard and I have been listening to audio books for over seven years. He talked too fast so the reader marveled at his rapid delivery rather than concentrating on the flow of words. The listener deserves more from a narrator and so does Stein.
The story was a disappointment, but his writing is still marvelous. This was not my kind of story ang I longed for the connection I felt with the dog in Racing in the Rain. It is rare to make that connection so I should not expect it again. For those who like fantasy this will probably be an enjoyable read
Garth Stein does a great job with character development, especially when the characters usually do not have a voice, or so we think. Whether a charming dog, or ghost from the past, or young adolescents with unsound wisdom, Stein makes me wonder like no other author.
This was a very boring "ghost" story. I thought the plot was slow and hard to pay attention to. The narrator was also boring. He spoke in a monotone and all his female voices sounded like gay man parodies. I finished it anyways and was disappointed all the way to the end.
No I will always read ghost stories.
A different narrator.
Garth Stein is such a skilled writer. His use of words long forgotten will have you reaching for your dictionary while promising yourself to use them in a sentence the following week. I loved his previous work, The Art of Running. The research and planning that went into this book is evident. I was anticipating so much more for this book.
Just like Steven King's The Shinning, this book is about your standard family unit that confronts the supernatural in a larger than life historic house. The ghosts in the family closet become more prevalent and dangerous than the floating kind, as the story progresses. What works for one book and not the other is mainly that the child protagonist in A Sudden Light doesn't come off as a child. He's too accepting of the apparitions and flaky relatives alike. I think Garth Stein wanted a smarter than average teenager - then he made him too worldly. Trevor knows too much and, at times, comes off as a distasteful little smart aleck. No one will ever connect with a 14 year old that is smarter than them. What teenage kid describes a color as azure? I had to Google it. It's sky-blye, Garth.
Furthermore, the reader is never allowed to get comfortable within the story because the dialog is too planned out. It's all a little forced and doesn't flow naturally. The historic diaries, that are conveniently fill in the back story, have the same 'too smart' wording as the one reading them hundreds of years later. It's all a little off.
Then what was the intended audience? Initially I was thinking this was written as a cross generational ghost story till the creepy hints of incest kept creeping in. I won't even mention the unlikelihood of the socialite ancestor's acceptance of his son's homeopathic relationship in the early 1900's.
Seth Numrich is a great narrator - a perfect choice. Not being able to ever feel connected to the book enough to ever care what happened, made for Seth lulling me to sleep over and over, day after day. This was not an easy book to get through that left me unrewarded when it was finally over.
The women voices should have been read by women.
It was a bit unbelievable that a the family would not sell the property because of the wishes of a ghost.
Also using words like faith and quotes from the bible, "my peace I give unto you" when talking about ghosts seemed irreverent.
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