Staff Review: A Sudden Light

9781439187036A Sudden Light

Garth Stein

Simon & Schuster

$26.95

Available September 2014

The narrator of this story is the adult Trevor Riddell but the story takes place in 1990, when Trevor was fourteen. His parents have gone bankrupt and are having a trial separation. While his Mom has gone home to England, Trevor accompanies his father to the huge but dilapidated family estate, Riddell House. Built with the massive fortune of the timber trade and made from giant whole trees, it was situated on a bluff overlooking Puget Sound. Trever’s father, Jones, is there to join forces with his sister Serena. The plan is to sell off the house and property for development  and then send Grandpa Samuel, experiencing dementia, to a nursing home.

Trevor has an agenda to keep his parents together and believes the money from the sale will help. He becomes acquainted with Ben the ghost of the mansion, a Riddell who was a passionate environmentalist and determined to reveal to Trevor the reasons that it is imperative to respect the wishes of the family patriarch, Elijah. Elijah had mandated that the estate be returned to the forestland as payback for the millions of trees harvested by the Riddell family. Trevor learns more about the history of the family and the curse that plagues it with the help of old journals and even experiencing Ben’s life through dreams. Trevor realizes that he wants to do the right thing and help Ben achieve the goal to keep the land pristine and undeveloped, even if doing so violates his father’s wishes and threatens to destroy his chance of connecting with his father and his parents reuniting.

This beautifully written story pays tribute to the beauty of the Pacific Northwest with an atmospheric moodiness that contains a hint of danger. At once a family saga and ghost story it speaks of the weight of past generations and the present family’s struggle to connect with each other even after death.

Cathy v

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