Saturday, January 31, 2015

'A Sudden Light'

For the past few weeks, I've set aside my Book Hog alter ego and taken up the annual guise of  'Queen-of-the-Flea-Killers'.  We've had a very mild Winter here in the Pacific Northwest, and when there's no snow, there's a ton of fleas. Although my Evil Plan Bureau is a strictly indoor clowder, fleas have been finding their way into our apartment; I think they latch onto our shoes and get a free ride into Catbloodland.  A dear friend suggested that I pour some salt onto our welcome mat and the inner threshold of our front door, and it's been working. Boraxo has been brushed into the carpet, and the cats (with the exception of Sonny; his claws draw blood just by looking at them) have been given a few baths.

So, there's that.  Work has also been taking up a lot of my time; curating a book section in a non-profit thrift shop is hard work.  And then there's our thrift shop's Ebay site.  *sigh*  I'm still astounded by the generosity of people.  That will never fade.

A week or so ago, while sorting books, I came across a library book.  It wasn't a 'discarded' book.  It was still in circulation, so, being the good little library patron that I am, I returned it to my local branch.  The librarian was very grateful, and I was happy to have performed a small civic duty.  So I treated myself.  I wandered through the shelves of new releases and came across a book I've been wanting to read.  

And it was good.  But not as good as the author's previous novel, 'The Art of Racing in the Rain'.  Every time I recommend that book to anyone, I always tell them to be sure to read the final chapter.  It's amazing.

Garth Stein, a writer living in Seattle, produced that wonderful novel a few years ago.  It impacted me in many ways; not only because I love animals, but because his writing truly inspires me to work on my own stories.  So, when I learned that he had published a new book, 'A Sudden Light', I had to grab it and read it.

I took my time.  I absorbed it.  I rejoiced in Stein's mastery of words and sentences, the way they led me into an adventure that was like no other.  I enjoyed his obvious adoration of our Pacific Northwest; the majesty of nature, the almost-pristine air, the history of it all.  

He's produced a fictional history that is too close to reality. His research is well displayed.

But it is his characters that impressed me the most.  So fully-drawn, so well exposed; their flaws, their secrets, their love and hate, their hidden agendas.

It's labeled a 'ghost story', but it's much more than that.  It's about family and the ties that bind us.  It's about respect for nature.  It's about never forgetting the promises that we make to each other.

In the Summer of 1990, fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell and his father travel to Seattle's Puget Sound to help his father's sister, Serena, dispatch their ailing father to a nursing home, and sell the family mansion, and it's land, to developers.

But Trevor is a curious young man.  He explores the house's secret stairways and hidden rooms, and discovers a spirit lingering in Riddell House, a spirit at odds with the family's plan.  Only Trevor's willingness to face the dark past of his forefathers will reveal the key to his family's future.  As Trevor reads hidden letters and journals written decades ago, he learns more and more about his great-great grandfather's 'timber baron' past, and the promise he made to his beloved eldest son.

Trevor's parents are separated, and his mother, who has returned to her childhood home in England, doesn't believe her son when he tells her about his discoveries.  And his aunt, Serena, will not let up in her mission to sell the land. I felt great compassion for the plight of each character, despite the fact that some of them had ulterior motives (Stein has a talent for promoting empathy for even those characters who don't seem to deserve it).

This is a story that must be savored.  You'll be pulled into the darkness of the old house, yet find yourself breathing easier when the action moves outdoors.  The 'tree climbing' scenes will leave you almost breathless.

Most of all, you'll discover a brave young man who pays attention to everything around him and boldly challenges his family's dark history.  

Garth Stein's 'A Sudden Light' is available at your local library and favorite independent bookstore.  ISBN 978-1-4391-8703-6

1 comment:

WritingGoddess said...

Feeling very embarrassed to admit that, when I scanned to the end of the post, all I could think was WOW, that is one good lookin' man. Okay, now that I've oogled his pic, I will check out his books.