Review: A Sudden Light

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Godreads Review:

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.

 My goodreads book club does a book recommendation swap every quarter, and I signed up for this one. It was the first time I had done one of these, and honestly I was a little nervous. I am pretty picky about my books and I don’t normally trust others giving me book recommendations. Well, with my participation in the 365DaysofYA challenge, and its leading me to books that I would not normally pick up I figured I would continue with the trend and try to keep broadening my book horizons!

Unfortunately, it didn’t work with this book. After reading the synopsis I was kinda “meh,” but hoped I would get more into the story once I actually started reading it. I will admit that I didn’t go into this book with the best attitude. After reading the reviews of it I was only more convinced that I wouldn’t like it, and I’m sure that affected my reading of it, but I still don’t think I would have been able to finish this book if I had gone into it without my apprehensions.

The only aspect of this book I enjoyed was the ghost story, which seemed to be more of a background plot than I expected. I know it was supposed to be a “coming-of-age” tale, but I didn’t get that vibe. The narrator is telling us about his life as a 14yr old, that’s all great and wonderful, but I don’t think 14yr olds sound that pretentious. The whole thing seemed really pretentious to me actually, like the author was trying to hard to sound smart and complex and deep. The characters were also hard for me to like, none of them seemed very complex. The main character, Trevor, was holding onto the idea of his parents getting back together, while crushing on his manipulative aunt, disdaining his father, and talking about how he was going to be a writer one day. Maybe I would have liked him more if I had made it more than a third through the book, but I doubt it.

In the end, I just didn’t care. I didn’t care about the characters and that overshadowed my interest in the haunting of the house. I also felt like the book was trying really hard to make a statement, which is fine, every book has some sort of message, but this one was beating you over the head with its message, but acting like that wasn’t its goal.

This book just wasn’t for me. And that seems to be the main consensus with the reviews, either you love it or you hate it, I was in the latter group, obviously.

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