Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Title: A Sudden Light
Author: Garth Stein
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: August 28, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Mystery
Reviewed by: Ellen Fritz
Ellen’s rating: 4/5


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 poignant tale of a troubled family, A Sudden Light turned out to be a gripping, if slightly long-winded read. Fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell is introduced to his heritage in the form of a monstrosity of a house, a wealth of family secrets, and a ghost who is ready and able to impart even more family secrets in order to convince Trevor to help fulfill Elijah Riddell's wishes. Trevor, however, only wants his parents to fix their marriage. His decisions whether to give in to the ghost's demands will depend on the chances of it being the key to reuniting his parents.

Although this book has a captivating beginning, it soon becomes rather boring. Fortunately, about forty percent along the story got its hooks into me.

Trevor, the main character, is remarkably mature for his age. He has a sharp, witty sense of humor and an obvious desire to do the right thing. Throughout the story he is placed before incredibly difficult choices. Choices that may determine whether his parents stop or continue their divorce. That his very obviously unstable aunt Serena is flaunting her sexuality, isn't helping either.

All the other characters are skillfully and realistically crafted. To say more about them, however, would put me in danger of giving spoilers.

Despite the ghosts and hauntings in this novel, it is not at all your typical scary ghost story. That Trevor isn't afraid of the ghost and sees the whole thing, first as an adventure and later as a mission, may be the reason for this.

This is a touching narrative of a young boy's desire to save his parents' marriage, promises made long ago, and an old man's craving to be cared for lovingly. It is also a tale of greed, insanity, ruthlessness and the power that the very wealthy and influential have over the less fortunate as well as their own children.

Though a bit lengthy, this ultimately heartwarming book is a worthwhile and relaxing read.

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Garth Stein is the author of four novels: the New York Times bestselling gothic/historical/coming-of-age/ghost story, "A Sudden Light"; the internationally bestselling "The Art of Racing in the Rain"; the PNBA Book Award winner, "How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets"; and the magically realistic "Raven Stole the Moon." He is also the author of the stage play "Brother Jones." He has a dog, he's raced a few cars, climbed a bunch of really tall trees, made a few documentary films, and he lives in Seattle with his family. He's co-founder of Seattle7Writers.org, a non-profit collective of 74 Northwest authors working together to energize the reading and writing public.

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1 comment:

fredamans said...

Great review!
I really loved Raven Who Stole The Moon so I surely want to read this one too!