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A Sudden Light: A Novel | [Garth Stein]

A Sudden Light: A Novel

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...
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Publisher's Summary

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

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (120 )
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3.9 (110 )
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  •  
    Readaholic 12-11-14
    Readaholic 12-11-14 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not racing in the rain"
    What did you like best about A Sudden Light? What did you like least?

    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


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mel USA 10-06-14
    Mel USA 10-06-14 Member Since 2009
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    "A Ghost of a Story"

    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.








    18 of 24 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Monica 02-25-15
    Monica 02-25-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Sudden Light"

    First heard on NPR chapter a day program. Great book! Looking forward to listening to more.
    Thanks for the book

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Connie 01-27-15
    Connie 01-27-15 Member Since 2008
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    "Get rid of the narrator"

    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.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Catherine 11-12-14
    Catherine 11-12-14
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    "Beautiful Prose and Descriptions of Place"

    I love Garth Stein's writing, but I'm not a fan of mystical realism, and that aspect of the story line really turned me off.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jen 10-09-14
    Jen 10-09-14 Member Since 2007
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    "There's Always A Breeze When Ben's Around"



    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.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pmunoz 05-14-15
    Pmunoz 05-14-15 Member Since 2015
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    ":)"

    This novel exceeded my expectations. Great characters, I feel as if I got to know them all. Just amazing overall!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deborah Coehlo 04-21-15 Member Since 2004
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    "A wonderful story told by a great storyteller"

    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.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lori Kim Fountain, CO, US 11-26-14
    Lori Kim Fountain, CO, US 11-26-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Very boring"
    What would have made A Sudden Light better?

    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.


    Has A Sudden Light turned you off from other books in this genre?

    No I will always read ghost stories.


    How could the performance have been better?

    A different narrator.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    Nope.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    harpo-polo 10-10-14
    harpo-polo 10-10-14 Member Since 2015
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    "A Lovely, Meaningful Read"
    What made the experience of listening to A Sudden Light the most enjoyable?

    Seth Numrich, the narrator. He's actually the reason I bought and listened to this book. I know nothing of the author, and have never heard of any of his other works. But I'm well aware of Numrich, and I wanted to see how well his dramatic talents measured up and translated into narration, to see how well he could juggle many characters simultaneously. He didn't disappoint.

    At first, I didn't understand his delivery of Serena. He was able to quickly anchor all of the male characters effortlessly, but Serena just felt lost and enigmatic, and I wasn't exactly sure if that was a conscious choice or just accident. I just let it be. An actor's greatest challenge is to embody a character whose experience is so far from your own, and whose experience would be further from a male actor's than a female character's? But it seemed to tie together in the end, due to plot revelations. If you have the same issue in the beginning, be patient... it'll resolve.

    Don't misunderstand, however. This confusion could have been unresolved, and I would still have enjoyed Numrich's narration immensely, far more than most.


    What other book might you compare A Sudden Light to and why?

    I really don't know.


    Have you listened to any of Seth Numrich’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    This is the first one I was ever aware of, frankly. But I adore his dramatic abilities. He has such a simple way of saturating his characters with pure volition and vulnerability, and that endears me to the protagonist(s) instantly. And this book is the same. The author is responsible for constructing character, engaging plot, etc. and Garth Stein has succeeded fantastically. But Numrich brings depth to the words and people in a way that I am instantly willing to "follow" him anywhere the plot goes, to be dismissive of nothing, and believe in the microcosm of this novel. Lovely.


    If you could take any character from A Sudden Light out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    Ben or Harry. I really couldn't decided which. I fell so much in love with both of them: Ben for his sense of duty to others beside himself and his capacity to love, Harry for his tremendous sense of hope and child-like yearning for good and pure things. I was more attached to those two characters than any other, and their relationship made this book more worth reading than for any other aspect of the narrative,


    Any additional comments?

    I measure this book the same as I do any other: am I better or do I feel better for having listened to this book? The answer is yes. I have written a lot about Numrich in this review, but I give Stein and Numrich equal credit for taking me on a pleasing journey that I will not be sorry to repeat at a later time in life.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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