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
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
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.
First, the narrator, Seth Numrich, who was able to read the story in a natural voice, not sounding like a machine. He captured each character distinctly and let me experience them in my mind. Also, as always, being able to take it with me and listen anytime, anywhere.
When Trevor discovered the real story behind Grandpa's dementia.
I think, Trevor's aunt, who lived in the home with Grandpa. The way Seth spoke her voice made it obvious that she was not right in the head.
I like listening over multiple sittings for a couple of reasons; one being that I drive to work and want something good to listen to on my commute. It was like waiting for and then getting to hear the next episode in a saga.
I had not heard of Garth Stein before this, but I will definitely check out his other work. He made a good choice of narrators too.
This book was recommended to me by a dear friend, I enjoyed the story along with narrative and I was captivated by Seth's portrayal of the characters. Cheers!
I am a fan of the traditional Victorian Gothic trop: an old house shuttered with locked doors, pregnant with hidden rooms, lost objects, awful family secrets, love, loss, and ghosts...this novel had all of this and more. Told in a refreshing, insightful narrative that was off the cuff and poetic. The characters are powerful and thier stories intruiging. The voice actor for this was wonderful. It was like he was telling me his story gently, just me, on a warm summer night.
Overall I liked this story. The narration was good, he did well sounding like the main character as well as the others. There were times when I sped up the reading because it was just too involved, during the reading of some journals that were obviously not journals because they were written like novels and they just droned on. This was the first time that I've ever really hated characters in a book. Serena drove me crazy, she was a terrible person. Jones also made me mad. Usually I can understand why the characters are acting certain ways but this book just made me hate them. But overall the story was good. I liked the spiritual side of the story a lot.
I love the metaphysical energy and Seattle history embedded throughout this fantastic story that is dark and yet filled with light. Garth Stein once again demonstrates his incredible skill as a storyteller. The reader provided an infectiously rich, engaging performance, bringing the characters to life with inflection and appropriate vocal changes.
So much here for deep discussion for a book club. But, read it for yourself because it was written for you.
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