Friday, August 15, 2014

Book Review | A Sudden Light

The publisher gave me a copy of this book to read and review from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has, in no way, altered my opinion of the book. 

Garth Stein has a gift, ladies and gentlemen. He knows how to manipulate words in such a fashion that drops jaws and slams them shut, leaving the audience stunned. Perhaps, really, it leaves them with pursed lips trying not to get overly emotional. Guilty as charged, I admit.

A Sudden Light revolves around a 14 year old boy named Trevor Riddell, who sluggishly trails along with his father, Jones, to Seattle whilst his mother returns to England. What awaits them in Seattle is a terribly decrepit mansion. Riddell House. Former home of the wealthy Elijah Riddell, head of the Riddell Timber company, which now serves as the dwelling place of his descendants. Early on, Trevor faintly detests living where his father spent his childhood.

What he would like more than anything is the reunion of his currently separated parents, but what we want is not always what we get. Trevor becomes entangled with every complication that could be thrown his way, all while in the company of his demented Grandpa Samuel and perfect Aunt Serena. Jones and Serena see Riddell House as an opportunity. To them, there is only one option: sell the house and property for developmental “McMansions” and send Grandpa Samuel to an elderly living facility. Trevor soon discovers that developing the land is not what his forefathers had in mind.

On his path to do the “right thing” – Trevor uncovers more than he bargained for. Secrets. Lies. Scandal. Ghosts. In a world where everything is connected, Trevor must determine whether the present will corrupt the past, and what can be done to ensure his family's future.

I'm going to try to explain my feelings for this novel in a calm, spoiler free manner. I thought A Sudden Light was engaging, touching, and crafted beautifully. Books that evoke raw emotions are hard to come by for me, so once I neared the end, I was surprised that tears were welling up in my eyes. What I love the most is that Garth Stein included every relationship there is. Familial relationships. Romantic relationships. Friendships. All around “-ships.”

The family dynamic and dichotomy was on point. I'm glad that I've been reading more family oriented stories as opposed to romantically driven ones. Let me tell you, four hundred something pages is not a lot of time to develop as many characters as Stein did, but he managed. Everyone was so formed. Trevor grew in his relationship with his father. His father even grew with his own dad, Grandpa Samuel. We saw the bond form between Ben and Harry as well as Ben and Elijah. Then there was Serena, who I thought was sketch from day one. I'll leave it at that.

Trevor was a strong narrator. I'm pleased that Stein made his character on the younger side but kept him well spoken and up to pace with the older family members. While it is mostly viewed as regular literary fiction, there were paranormal aspects. I personally think the ghostly elements added to the narrative, specifically the first half of the book. Continuing through A Sudden Light, I can confidently say that the second half is better than the first. Suddenly (watch out, it's getting punny), a new light shone down, and the speed increased drastically.

I hate diary entries. Sometimes, rarely, they make the plot more interesting. In this case, they killed me. I don't mind one or two, but when there are more than five, it's a problem. Actually, let me rephrase that. It's only a problem when they're boring. But it definitely had everything to do with the wording of the entries. On the other hand, the language was meant to reflect that of the early 1900s in the diary sections, so I hereby cut Garth Stein some slack.

I can't say much more without revealing spoilers, so I'll conclude with the following 1) This book is breathtakingly beautiful 2) Garth Stein is the homie because we both live in Washington 3) Another reason Garth Stein is the homie is because this story takes place in Seattle and I love Seattle.

Furthermore, I need to read the rest of his books.

5 out of 5 stars

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